In khadi vs khaki, the loser is the House

The incident of MLAs beating up a cop on Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha premises has turned into a battle between khadi and khaki which does not augur well for the state. As the crucial Budget session becomes hostage to the ugly power tussle, it has also further exposed the leadership failure of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

If the assault on the cop was not bad enough, what has made matters worse is how both sides are refusing to climb down even after the MLAs were suspended by Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil for the rest of the year, and measures taken for their arrest. Even as work in the Assembly and Council has come to a grinding halt, the questions being debated are: Who is supreme in the Vidhan Sabha? Can the police force and judiciary overrule the executive powers of the political class?

Angry ministers and MLAs across party lines are questioning Home Minister R R Patil over, what they see as, the police's vindictive action in slapping "excessive" clauses Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) against the arrested MLAs.

What is also evident is that a section in the divided Congress has seized the opportunity to create more trouble for the Chavan government. Weak as ever, Chavan has done nothing to contain the political damage. Not a single statement has been made by the CM in the Assembly or Council, when he as the leader of the House should have taken the lead to address the unrest among MLAs who were upset with the developments.

The message that went across was that both Chavan and Patil were completely ignoring the political class and giving more significance to the police force. In the Congress inter-party politics, Industries Minister Narayan Rane has gained in the process, putting up a spirited defence and taking up the "cause" of the MLAs in the House.

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