Kerala governor criticises opposition for trying to stall his policy address

As Arif Muhammad Khan fulfilled his constitutional obligation marking the beginning of the session, the Congress-led UDF staged a walkout

While the Governor read out the policy speech, the ruling bench maintained a conspicuous silence

The budget session of the Kerala Legislative Assembly got off to a stormy start on Friday, with opposition members disrupting Governor Arif Muhammad Khan’s policy address.

As Khan fulfilled his constitutional obligation marking the beginning of the session, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) staged a walkout.

Earlier the opposition members greeted Khan with shouts of “governor go back”, even as the police brass band announced his arrival. The chief minister and the speaker were escorting Khan, as per protocol. 

As Khan stepped up to the speaker’s rostrum to deliver the policy address, Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan attempted to raise a point of order. The placards raised by UDF legislators, sloganeering from the opposition benches and Satheesan’s attempts to attract the attention of the speaker irked Khan. Khan told Satheesan: “You are a responsible person. You are the leader of the opposition. You have a full session to discuss all the issues. Now is not the right time to express dissent. You have to allow me to discharge my constitutional obligation.”

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Later, the opposition staged a protest outside the assembly hall. Satheesan then led them out of the precincts. At the assembly gates, he accused the government and the governor of collusion. 

On Thursday it was not clear that the governor would read out the policy document, as he was at loggerheads with the government regarding the recent appointment of a BJP man to his office.

The government had expressed displeasure over the appointment of Hari S Kartha, a former journalist with BJP mouthpiece Janmabhumi, through a letter sent by the principal secretary of General Administration to the governor. The standoff was resolved following a compromise; the government removed K R Jyothilal, the principal secretary, from his post.

The governor also put the government in a tight spot by refusing to sign the policy speech unless the administration quashed a decision granting pension to the personal staff of ministers. After hours of uncertainty, the CM met him at his residence on Thursday. Following the meeting, the governor gave in and signed the document. However, even on Friday it was not clear if the governor would read out the address without omitting portions of it.