By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 21 Sep: With just hours left before the one-day session of the State Assembly, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal and BJP MLA from Roorkee, Pradeep Batra have tested positive for Covid-19 infection. Not just this, 3 employees of the Vidhan Sabha Secretariat as well some personal staff members of the Speaker, too, have tested Corona positive. In view of Speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal being infected, the assembly session would be chaired by Deputy Speaker Rahgunath Chauhan for the first time. For the very first time, the state assembly will hold only a one day Monsoon session. The session will not see physical participation of any senior member of the House as they have been advised to join the session via online mode.
The session is scheduled to be held on 23 September.
The Leader of the Opposition, Dr Indira Hridayesh, will also be absent as she is also infected by Covid-19 and is currently admitted at Medanta Hospital in the NCR Region. She had, on Saturday, tested positive for the infection and after initial treatment at Sushila Tiwari Hospital in Haldwani was brought to Doon by government chopper and admitted to Max Hospital. However, she failed to get a private room and, therefore, had herself taken to Synergy Hospital within a matter of hours. However, again she was not satisfied with the services there, too, and, at her insistence, the government arranged for her to be airlifted to Medanta Hospital in Gurugram.
At the same time, BJP MLA from Mussoorie, Ganesh Joshi, too, has home isolated himself for 5 days and, therefore, is not likely to participate physically in the session. Some others, like Raipur MLA Umesh Sharma ‘Kau’, are also in home isolation due to Corona infection. As such, the session is likely to witness very little attendance of the members. Several members are currently either home isolated or hospitalised due to Corona and will not be attending the session. This is a one day session, only, being held in view of the constitutional requirements as, according to the rules, the time gap between two sessions of parliament or the state assemblies must not be six months or more! Given the paucity of time, Question Hour has been suspended as has been done in the current Monsoon Session of Parliament. However, contrary to what many are claiming, this is not for the first time that Question Hour has been suspended in Parliament. It has happened during sessions held in 1962, 1971, 1975, 1976, 2002 and 2009.
Cabinet Minister and Government Spokesperson Madan Kaushik, who has held interim charge of Parliamentary Affairs for the past one year following the death of the then Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Prakash Pant, will attend the session, sources claimed, and would be defending the government on the floor of the House, after having been declared healthy. It may be recalled that Kaushik, too, had tested positive for Corona, though a second test had turned out to be negative. However, he had been under medical supervision and quarantined. There is no permanent Vidhan Sabha Secretary, too, following the retirement of Jagdish Chandra. In this context, the charge is being held by Deputy Secretary Mukesh Singhal. This is despite there being a joint secretary, who is senior to the Deputy Secretary. Sources claim that the Joint Secretary, Madan Singh Kunjwal, is a kin of former Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, and his appointment is stated to be under some cloud. Hence, Kunjwal will be working for the first time under a junior officer during the session.
Entry of outsiders during the session has been strictly restricted and even the media is not permitted. In fact, 5 members of the House will be seated in the media gallery while another five will be seated in the visitors’ gallery. Usually, the Vidhan Sabha campus sees lot of visitors during the session and many supporters of the ministers or members of the house from their respective constituencies are also seen roaming around. This time, however, no such person is going to be allowed.
By Arun Pratap Singh