Coronavirus: Guj Cong's postponement demand rejected

Coronavirus: Gujarat Congress' session postponement demand rejected

Residents wearing facemasks participate in a prayer for speedy recovery of people affected by COVID-19 coronavirus, in Ahmedabad, Friday, March 13, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Opposition Congress MLAs staged a walkout in the Gujarat Assembly on Monday after the speaker refused to accept their demand to postpone the ongoing budget session due to the novel coronavirus threat.

The ruling BJP had opposed the demand claiming the Congress was running scared due to five of its MLAs quitting ahead of the March 26 Rajya Sabha polls.

Congress MLA from Ahmedabad's Danilimda, Shailesh Parmar, requested Speaker Rajendra Trivedi to postpone the budget session, scheduled to end on March 31, and resume it when the virus scare dies down.

Backing Parmar's demand, Leader of the Opposition Paresh Dhanani said the session could be postponed as discussions on the budget had been completed, adding that the government had already closure of schools, colleges, cinema halls and other places attracting footfalls.

He also cited the example of neighbouring Maharashtra where the budget session ended ahead of schedule.

However, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani opposed the demand saying such a move would send the wrong message to people amid the coronavirus threat.

Rupani claimed the Congress was more concerned about the crisis rising from five of its MLAs resigning ahead of the RS polls, and, therefore, was making the postponement demand.

"We should stay back here here and worry about the people of the state. If we run away scared, then what will happen to citizens? This is why, as public representatives, we should not be scared, but care about people," the CM said.

"Their demand for suspension is more due to "todona" (break up) (play on the word corona and a reference to the quitting of MLAs) scare because of the upcoming Rajya Sabha election. If you want to go to Jaipur, its your will. But what will public do if we get scared of coronavirus? We should continue with our work," he said.

Speaking on the issue, Dhanani said, "Discussions on the budget, which took place for four days, is complete, and we are ready for discussions on government policies or programmes if required. We are even ready to stay awake at night if there is a need in order to take up remaining work."

Dhanani said his party had postponed its 'Dandi Yatra' event, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi March 22 programme here had also been pushed back due to the virus threat.

Speaker Trivedi refused to accept the Congress' demand saying preventive measures were being taken, and the state government was doing whatever was required at its level.

Trivedi told MLAs sanitisers had been placed in the gallery of the House, and visits by groups into the complex had been banned.

"The opposition is worried about it (coronavirus threat), and so is the government. Now that the budget session is going on, and the calendar is decided....I believe we are sitting in the temple of democracy, and messages go out from it.....The government will take all precautions required for coronavirus," the speaker said.

After their demand was rejected, Congress legislators indulged in sloganeering and walked out of the Assembly, with several BJP MLAs mockingly waving them good bye.

The speaker then quipped that the Congress legislators would be back (in the Assembly) tomorrow.

No positive case of coronavirus has been reported in the state as yet.

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