West Bengal Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution supporting an ad hoc committee report that favoured creation of a legislative council amid opposition by the BJP, which claimed that the council is being created to help Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee become a member of the assembly in the absence of a by-election.
The resolution – ‘Consideration of the ad hoc committee’s report to examine the recommendation for the creation of a Legislative council’ — was moved by state parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee under Rule 169 of the Procedures of Conduct of Business of the House.
Voting was duly held, with 196 of the 265 members present in the house supporting the council’s creation and 69 opposing it. Banerjee had talked about creation of legislative council in Bengal and the promise formed part of the TMC manifesto in the just-concluded state polls.
While opposing the resolution, the BJP legislature party argued that the purpose of the resolution was to pursue “backdoor politics” to help party leaders get elected as lawmakers despite having lost the assembly polls. The saffron party also argued that the move would put pressure on the state exchequer.
“Most of the states either don’t have an upper house or have already abolished it. The real reason behind the TMC planning is to ensure backdoor entry for those leaders who failed to win assembly elections. “The state, on the one hand, is saying it doesn’t have funds, but the creation of this Legislative council will put additional pressure of Rs 90-100 crores every year,” Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari told news agency PTI.
Adhikari had defeated Mamata Banerjee at high-profile Nandigram seat and the latter has to become a legislator within six months. Later, while speaking to reporters, Adhikari said the ruling TMC may have “bulldozed the resolution by using its brute majority” but it won’t see the light of the day as “all steps will be taken to ensure it doesn’t get through in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha where the saffron party has the majority”.
“We will see how it is passed in the both Houses of Parliament,” he said. Adhikari pointed out that when the Legislative Council was in place in the state assembly from 1952 to 1969, only two out of the 436 bills passed during that period went through amendments.
Speaking on the resolution, Chatterjee said achievers and noted personalities of the society from various walks of life have a representation, and also people from various strata of the society get accommodated in the decision making process. “Those who are so bothered about the state exchequer should first ask the centre to release the GST funds. The BJP government should first stop the Central Vista project during the pandemic and then should lecture others.
“Secondly, the financial constraint can never impede development in a democracy and has weighed all the questions related to financial constraint,” Chatterjee later told reporters. When asked about the veiled threat issues by Adhikari that the proposal for setting up Legislative Council won’t see the light of the day in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Chatterjee said the people would give a befitting reply to the saffron party for its audacity.
“The people of the state would give a befitting reply for such audacity. We have done our job now. It is for the people to decide,” he said. Echoing the BJP, lone ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui also opposed the resolution citing “pressure” on the exchequer of the debt-ridden state.
The TMC government had earlier tabled the proposal in the state Assembly for setting up Vidhan Parishad after coming to power in 2011. However, the proposal was accepted, and a committee was also set up in this regard. The committee had given its report, and it was decided that a resolution would be taken for the creation of the legislative council.
But, due to unknown reasons, the resolution was never taken up. West Bengal Legislative Council was set up in 1952 and abolished in 1969 during the time of the United Front government.
Now, the resolution would need a nod from the Governor, and after that, a Bill has to be passed in the parliament. Following which it has to be sent for President’s assent so that a Legislative Council can be created.
Presently, six states have a Legislative Council, and they are- Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar.