Free-For-All in Kerala Assembly: Minister Delivers Budget Speech as Chair, Mics Thrown

Thiruvananthapuram:

Finance minister KM Mani read out the state budget at top speed this morning in the Kerala assembly, finishing in seven minutes. He was surrounded by assembly staff to prevent opposition leaders from reaching him.

Minutes before, lawmakers of the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) had clashed with the assembly's Watch and Ward staff as they attempted to block all entrances into the assembly. The lawmakers pushed and toppled the Speaker's chair and tore out his mic flinging it across the room.

As Mr Mani, 81, read the Budget speech, the opposition's lawmakers raised slogans against him, while those of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) cheered. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was in the house. In some corners of the large hall, lawmakers were seen pushing each other.

There were reports that three MLAs fainted in the chaos; four were rushed to hospital.

Outside the assembly, a massive contingent of LDF and BJP protesters raised slogans against Mr Mani and threw bottles of water at the police, who used batons, tear gas and water cannons to control the crowd.  

The police deployed a 2,500-strong force outside the assembly, with multiple barricades.

Newsbeep

The high drama began yesterday after the opposition vowed that it would not let Mr Mani present the Budget. They alleged that the Finance Minister accepted a bribe of Rs. 1 crore to renew licences of bars that were shut down by the administration last year.

The minister, along with at least 70 of the ruling UDF's 74 lawmakers, camped in a room of the state Assembly complex last night, to pre-empt the opposition. Only Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and a woman MLA opted out.

Lawmakers from Opposition too reached the assembly premises in big numbers and stayed the night.  The chaos began early morning as they moved to stop Mr Mani from entering the assembly.

The CPI-M led LDF has stepped up protests demanding Mr Mani's resignation since the Budget Session began.
   
Mr Mani, who belongs to the Kerala Congress (M), is a key ally of Oommen Chandy's Congress-led government.

In December last year, Kerala's Vigilance and Anti-Corruption bureau had booked the finance minister as first accused in the "bar scam case."