KOLKATA: West Bengal Legislative Assembly speaker Hasim Abdul Halim on Wednesday appointed CPI(M) MLA Srutinath Praharaj as chairman of the Assembly standing committee on commerce and industry. " Mr Praharaj will function as chairman of the said standing committee till July," Mr Halim told reporters.
The standing committee on commerce and industry is being touted as among the most important legislative panels in West Bengal. Previously, Sudip Banerjee, Congress MLA, was chairman of the standing committee. But recently, Mr Halim expelled him under anti-defection laws after the leader of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) Manas Bhunia lodged an official complaint with Halim against Banerjee. Sudip was expelled after he rejoined Trinamool Congress despite being elected to the state Assembly from the Bowbazar assembly seat during 2006 polls on a Congress ticket.
Naturally, Halim on Wednesday, filled up the vacant post of the standing committee chairman by nominating Praharaj. Congress, however, demanded that the post be given to it as the standing committee was headed by a Congress MLA. "I urged the Speaker to appoint our MLA from Katwa, Rabindranath Chatterjee as the chairman of the standing committee. But the speaker told me that he could not do so as Chatterjee is not a member of the said standing committee," CLP leader Manas Bhunia said on Wednesday. "But we strongly oppose the Speaker’s decision and want him to appoint some of our MLAs as the chairman of the committee," Bhunia mentioned.
Trinamool Congress, however, described the Speaker’s actions as "politically motivated and unethical." The opposition leader and Trinamool Congress MLA, Partha Chatterjee said on Wednesday that "the way the speaker has appointed a CPI(M) MLA who has not completed a full five year term in the state Assembly clearly shows his political bias." "We strongly opposed the Speaker’s decision of appointing the CPI(M) MLA as the standing committee chairman. The monsoon session of the House will begin on June 15 and the speaker could wait till that time before appointing the chairman of the standing committee. His act has hurt the democratic values and we are sorry to say that by appointing the ruling party MLA, the speaker has shown his loyalty to the CPI(M)," said Mr Chatterjee.
Praharaj won the Uttarpara assembly seat during 2006 Assembly election on a CPI(M) ticket. Chatterjee also said that "Praharaj was elected chairman only because he belongs to Hooghly district where Singur is located."