West Bengal: Left walkout on newspaper issue

Kolkata: The opposition Left Front on Thursday staged a walk-out from the West Bengal Assembly, for the third time during the ongoing budget session, against the state government circular specifying eight newspapers for subscription by state-sponsored and aided libraries.

Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay rejected an adjournment motion on the issue, but allowed CPI(M) member Anisur Rahaman who moved it to read it out.

After Rahaman read the motion, the Left members were on their feet, raising slogans and displaying placards decrying what they described as an attack on the newspapers.

While the Speaker continued with the scheduled business of the House, the agitated members continued shouting slogans around his podium and walked out after some time.

Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra later told newsmen that the government circular was a move to gag the voice of the press and a 'conspiracy' to bring about a division in the press.

The speaker has turned down discussions on all adjournment moved by the Opposition ever since the new government had taken over, Mishra said.

He said while the Opposition had wanted a 30 to 45- minute discussion on the issue, the Speaker had allowed only an abridged version of the adjournment motion.

Rahaman said although Library Minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury had held a press conference yesterday, he had 'fled' from the House today by seeking leave on the plea of illness.

"It seems there will be one party, the Trinamool Congress, only one leader Mamata Banerjee and that the Opposition will have no right to protest. This is the beginning of autocracy," he said.

Mishra said he would lead a delegation of Left Front MLAs for a meeting with Governor MK Narayanan to draw his attention to the issue and to the government's recent move to hand over the financial management of three zilla parishads to district magistrates.