West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee’s appointment of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) again sparked controversy, paving the way for a second showdown between the Trinamool Congress-led government and the BJP on the issue in as many years.
A week after Krishnangar MP Uttar Mukul Roy resigned, citing health concerns, the president on Monday appointed BJP MP Krishna Kalyani who, like Roy, defected to the TMC last year. Kalyani was with the ruling party but joined the BJP ahead of assembly elections last year. He won against Raiganj in Uttar Dinajpur district and returned to the TMC fold in October. He is one of five BJP MPs who have moved to the ruling party since assembly elections without officially resigning from the legislature.
Last year, Roy was named PAC leader after joining the TMC following his election on a BJP ticket. But the MP has not resigned from the assembly and is technically still an opposition party lawmaker. The BJP fought tooth and nail against the president’s decision, with the post going to an opposition candidate as per convention. The President of the PAC has the status of Cabinet Minister.
“It is a huge responsibility for me. The appointment of the President of the PAC is the prerogative of the Speaker of the Assembly and I seek everyone’s cooperation,” Kalyani said after the President announced his decision.
The appointment of the Raiganj lawmaker is expected not to have gone down well with his former party, which again accused the president of not following convention when appointing the PAC leader. The party said it was considering moving the High Court to Calcutta again to challenge the ruling.
BJP Chief Assembly Whip Manoj Tigga said, “We had previously put forward the name of BJP MP and economist Ashok Lahiri as a candidate for the post of PAC. But his name was not chosen by the President. The whole world knows which party Kalyani now belongs to. Only the Assembly has no idea. The president’s office says the same, that on paper he is a BJP MP. We strongly oppose this appointment. We are in talks with opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari to challenge this appointment in court. A decision on this will be taken soon. »
TMC leader Kanhaiyalal Agarwal said, “BJP should have no problem with this appointment as the President has not declared Kalyani a TMC MP. It’s a decision made by the president and everyone should abide by it.
Mukul Roy’s appointment was not the first instance where convention was not followed. Between 2016 and 2021, Congress MPs Manas Bhunia and Sankar Singh were appointed to head the committee even though they too, like Roy, joined the TMC without resigning from the Assembly.
Following Biman Banerjee’s decision to appoint Mukul Roy in July 2021, BJP MP Ambika Roy moved the High Court from Kolkata and prayed for the appointment of an opposition member to the post as per tradition. But the court left the matter to the President for his deliberation.
On June 8, Banerjee pointed out that Mukul Roy was still a BJP member and reiterated his February 11 verdict rejecting Suvendu Adhikari’s motion to disqualify the Assembly Member. The Speaker said he found no merit in the petitioners’ argument.