Photo used for indicative purpose only. Courtesy : Internet

Shimla, Dec 31

Changing democratic conventions, Pro-tem speaker appoints LOP. In the past, it was the Speaker who had been notifying the Leader of the Opposition, but this is probably the first time in case of the Himachal Legislative Assembly that the Leader of the Opposition has been recognized by the Pro-tem Speaker and that too before the MLAs are  sworn in and a cabinet is formed.

This new debate is slowly gaining momentum in the political analysts circles of the state. That the way before taking oath of legislative assembly, the leader of Opposition was recognised on the whip of BJP Legislative party, requires deliberations, feel these analysts.

It is worthwhile to mention here that the former Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur before taking oath as MLA was recognised as the Leader of Opposition by the Pro-tem Speaker after getting a consent from the Sukhu government.

Critical analysts feel that the parliamentary democracy and its rich convention are being  breached as constitutional provisions are at stake today, not only in the state, but Nation at large.

In the past such a notification has never been witnessed through an officiating speaker. On the issue, we tried talking to the Secretary Vidhan Sabha, who told us that the pro-tem speaker has the constitutional power to issue such an order. Though talking about any references from the past, the Vidhan Sabha official could not provide any.

According to the a former speaker from the opposition party, apart from administering oaths to the newly elected MLAs, there has been no instance of the pro tem speaker dealing with any other work. “No such case in the past can be remembered,” he stated.

Though the former speaker added that such an action can be taken by a Pro tem speaker, if the case is of any genuine emergency.  Now what was the emergency situation for the Sukhu government, is not disclosed, yet.

Noteworthy is that, there is no reference of protem speaker in Vidhan Sabha procedures and rule book. There is no mention of Pro tem Speaker anywhere in the rules uploaded by the Vidhan Sabha on its website. Apart from this, there is not much mention in the rules regarding the rights and powers of Pro tem Speaker. But, according to constitutional conventions, when a new government is formed, the senior most MLA is elected as the pro tem speaker and does the work of administering oaths to the new MLAs.  After this, the House elects the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.

The convention of protem speaker may not be in writing but any elected MLA who is senior most is appointed as protem speaker.

Gangu Ram Musafir, ex-speaker and MLA and minister for half a dozen times, said that he does not remember that pro tem speaker has ever used his powers at other places except administering oaths to new MLAs. Though he also added, that this is also the first time ever, that there has been such a delay in swearing in of legislators and formation of a cabinet.

Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have been accusing the Modi government of tampering with the basic spirit of the Constitution. So undoubtedly, the decisions being taken by the Sukhu government should certainly catch the eye of the two Congress leaders.

Is Congress and BJP as ruling and opposition or the vice versa, trying to fix things by defying august traditions and high convention of the legislative proceedings?

Pertinent to mention here is that before the house will convene for winter session in coming January, the only job served by the newly notified LOP has been becoming part of a meeting where the new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) was appointed .

The big question making rounds amongst critics in the coffee house is, whether Jairam was notified as the Leader of the Opposition through the Pro tem Speaker to secure the new job for the retiring IAS officer?  This post which had remained vacant for the last six months, could have remained so, for another one month, they debated.  Whereas the government should have first rightfully elected the speaker, his deputy, the cabinet and then after administering oaths to all elected MLAs, they could have appointed the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of the State.

It is a well established fact that today the Congress came to power riding on OPS and job security for youth. “It would have been more fruitful if the Sukhu government would have ordered to full-up the vacant posts pending since the previous Jairam government,” commented  political thinkers.

A senior politician informed me that recently, a delegation of youth met the CM for result declaration of their jobs pending since 2021.  “It would have been better if Sukhu had given jobs to such youth, before giving post retirement employment,” he added. Moreover the IAS officers already have immense resources to sustain without a job for a month or two,” he jibed.

Many critics feel that now the ball is in the court of the ‘ ‘CM Sukhu” whether it he wants to be termed as the ‘CM of bureaucracy‘ or the ‘CM of masses and unemployed youth‘?


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