Give more opportunity and importance to Oppn

Kolkata: Signalling a possible end to the `us and them` syndrome where the former ruling Left Front and the Opposition were not on speaking terms, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today urged the new Assembly Speaker to give opportunity and importance to the Opposition.

Banerjee, for whom it was the first day in the House, told 63-year-old Biman Bandopadhyay, who was elected unopposed as the Speaker, that he should give opportunity and importance to the Opposition members.

She also scored another point against her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who had once asserted that the Left Front had a brute majority of 235 members while the opposition was a miniscule minority of 35, saying she strongly favoured democracy and not `partycracy`.

Banerjee`s gesture was welcomed by the entire House, particularly the Left Front which is sitting on the Opposition benches for the first time after remaining in power for an uninterrupted 34 years.

Congratulating Bandopadhyay on his election, the CM extended her government`s full cooperation to him in the smooth conduct of the House.

She requested Bandopadhyay to verse the new MLAs in rules and regulations and legislative procedures.

In another political gesture, Banerjee did not forget to mention CPI(M) member Mustafa Bin Quasem, who allegedly committed suicide by jumping off the fourth floor of the MLA Hostel yesterday, in her short speech.

She said her heart was heavy as `Quasembhai` was not present in the new House. The Chief Minister conveyed her sympathy to his bereaved family and the CPI(M).

Before leaving the House, she went over to the Opposition bench and spoke to CPI(M)`s Anisur Rehman and Probodh Chandra Sinha (DSP), both former ministers.

Leader of the Opposition Suryakanta Mishra (CPI-M) congratulated the new Speaker and expressed happiness that the Banerjee had called for giving more importance to the Opposition.

He said that it was always believed during the Left Front regime that the House belonged to the Opposition.

Mishra assured the Opposition`s cooperation to the new Speaker.

During 1972-77, the CPI(M) and other Left parties had also been in the Opposition with the Congress in power with a huge majority.

Seated in the front row on the Opposition bench were Abdur Rezzak Molla, Sushanta Ghosh, Anisur Rehman and Suryakanta Mishra, all former ministers belonging to the CPI-M.

It was after 29 years that the Assembly saw a new Speaker in the House.

H A Halim, a senior CPI(M) leader, had held the chair since 1982.

With a large number of members being new entrants in the House, many went looking for their seats.

The House presented a colourful scene with members drawn from different walks of life — actors, singers, bureaucrats, economists, retired IPS officers and theatre personalities.

The House was called for a day for the election of the Speaker.