Seizing the initiative ahead of the start of the Monsoon Session of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Monday took out a foot march from the party office to Vidhan Sabha. The second such high-profile bid by Akhilesh to take out a protest in the past few days, ending similarly with the government foiling it, gives the former chief minister some visibility and momentum ahead of the House session, apart from countering claims by dissidents that he is absent from the ground bar elections.
Stopped by police from proceeding towards the Assembly, which began its short, five-day session from Monday, Akhilesh sat on a dharna on the road along with his MLAs, as well as former legislators, holding black placards and raising slogans. The leaders then went on to hold a “mock Assembly session” on the road, offering condolences to sitting or former MLAs who had passed away since the last session, including a BJP legislator.
Barricades and heavy police were put up near Akhilesh’s residence, near the SP office as well as the route leading to Raj Bhavan to stop the march. The party used the show of force to question the “highhandedness” of the Yogi Adityanath government as well as claim that it showed its nervousness when it came to the SP.
With the SP legislators away, the Monsoon Session began with empty Opposition benches, and an early adjournment after offering condolences to the departed members.
“Rising prices have created havoc,” read the placard held by Akhilesh. Apart from price rise, the SP raised slogans targeting the BJP government on law and order, unemployment, non-payment of dues of farmers, as well as “the atrocities” on Azam Khan.
Akhilesh said that SP MLAs wanted to raise these issues earlier but were stopped, and the same had been done on Monday so that they couldn’t talk about these in the House. Party leaders called it breach of their privilege asking why MLAs were being stopped from attending the Assembly session, calling it “the murder of democracy”.
The SP chief accused the government of running from facing these questions and asked, “Why does the government not want to face us?”
Denying the SP’s claims, Chief Minister Adityanath said all parties could raise their issues, “but in a democratic way”. “If they had sought permission as per rules, police would have given the same.”
He added: “But to expect from the SP that it would follow any kind of rule or decorum, would just be wishful thinking.”
Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya said if Akhilesh wanted to raise any issue, he should have done it inside the Assembly.
In a surprise, BSP chief Mayawati responded strongly to Adityanath’s statement regarding the SP, saying: “The BJP’s claim before the start of the Monsoon Session that the Opposition is unemployed exposes their arrogant thinking and irresponsible attitude.” She also urged the government to speak about “any evident change brought in the condition of inflation, poverty, unemployment, poor education, health, law and order etc, and whether migration has been stopped”.
Lucknow Commissioner of Police S B Shiradkar refuted that MLAs were stopped from going to the Vidhan Sabha. “It is wrong that they were not given permission. It is a Monday morning and there is a commute of common people on the road. Thus, they were provided a different route but they insisted on the one they took.”