Speaker, govt face off over Prez speech at Soudha fete

Speaker, govt face off over Prez speech at Soudha fete

The Legislature Secretariat and the state government are at loggerheads over President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech during the diamond jubilee of Vidhana Soudha on October 25.

Kovind’s speech has already stirred up a controversy over the mention of Tipu Sultan, which left the BJP red-faced. Now, the split between the Secretariat and the government is wide open on whether there was any interference in drafting the President’s address.

“Constitutionally, the government can prepare the speech for the President for an address to the joint session of the legislature. But it was not a joint session that was convened on October 25. It was a public function that happened to be held at the Vidhana Soudha. Neither did the government prepare the President’s speech, nor were inputs or feedback provided to help the President prepare the speech,” Law Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters on Thursday.

Speaker K B Koliwad maintained that it was a joint session that the President addressed. “Four Presidents have addressed a joint session of both houses in the past. This (Kovind’s speech) was no different,” Koliwad said. “You should ask the law minister why he’s saying it was not a joint session.”

Koliwad also released a copy of a draft speech the Legislature Secretariat had prepared for the President. The draft, which was sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan on October 21, has no mention of Tipu Sultan. “In fact, the President did not use 99% of the content in our draft,” he said.

Koliwad denied there were any irregularities in the money (Rs 10 crore) that was spent to organise the diamond jubilee. “My office is 100% transparent. Everything in my office is audited. Any violation will come out through the auditor general. As far as accusations go, well, even Mahatma Gandhi faced them,” he said.

If Koliwad has his way, the Vidhana Soudha building will remain decked up with colourful lights every Saturday and Sunday. “I’ve suggested this to the chief minister,” he said. The Secretariat is also planning to upload on YouTube the Vidhana Soudha documentaries commissioned as part of the diamond jubilee.

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