No confrontation, only cooperation, central government assures Bengal

New Delhi, Nov 30 ( The central government Monday assured West Bengal that it was not in confrontation with the state government but only intended to cooperate with it to control inter-party clashes and bring the law and order situation under control.

“I am in constant touch with the chief minister. We have a good working relationship. We are both committed to working together to ensure law and order is maintained and inter-party clashes don’t take place,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha.

The statement came after protests by the opposition, principally the Left parties, forced two adjournments of the house over the despatch of a central team to study the law and order situation in West Bengal.

“We feel that the centre and and the state have to work together in cooperation. There is no question of confrontation. Therefore, it was was felt that a team of officers should visit Kolkata (for discussions with the state government),” Chidambaram maintained.

“The team is going to hold discussions with the West Bengal government not in any spirit of confrontation. The visit is meant to help the West Bengal government end inter-party clashes. It is my appeal not to read more into it,” the home minister contended.

The reply didn’t entirely satisfy the opposition, with Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) apprehending that the central team’s visit was a precursor to the “misuse” of Article 356 of the Constitution that enables the centre to dismiss a state government for a variety of reasons.

“I want an assurance that the team will visit (specific spots) only in consultation with the state government,” Yechury demanded.

Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spoke much in the same vein, holding that the issue had to do with the federal system of governance.

“The house would like to be assured that the visit (of the central team) is not at the behest of one one of the alliance partners (of the ruling UPA coalition),” Jaitley said.

With Chidambaram disinclined to say anything further, Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan then announced the start of zero hour.

The objections to the central team’s visit had begun immediately when the house assembled, with Yechury objecting to the move, saying it was violative of the constitution.

“Sir, we normally don’t demand that question hour be suspended but this is a grave constitutional matter and needs to be discussed,” he contended.

“You can raise it during zero hour,” Chairman Hamid Ansari told him but Yechury continued his protests.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan said he would convey the feelings of the party to Chidambaram and ask him to make a statement.

“The home minister may make a statement but the fact is that sending a central team is violative of the constitution,” Yechury insisted.

Left parliamentarians, led by Matilal Sarkar of the CPI-M then advanced towards the chairman’s podium, forcing Ansari to adjourn the house at 11.05 a.m. for 15 minutes.

The disruptions continued after the house re-assembled and it was adjourned again till noon.