Congress, BJP MLAs accuse Raj Assembly Speaker of caste bias

In a first in the state, the Speaker of the Rajasthan Assembly has been accused of discriminating against Congress and BJP MLAs belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and religious minorities by the lawmakers themselves, who alleged that their voices are being suppressed in the House.

In the last few days, MLAs from both the Congress and the BJP have accused Speaker C.P. Joshi of discriminating against them by not allowing them to raise their voice on the burning issues, besides allotting them seats without microphone in the House with an intention of suppressing their voices.

The Congress MLAs who have raised the issue include Sapotra MLA Ramesh Meena, who was sacked as the Food and Civil Supplies Minister during the political crisis in July last year, Dausa MLA Murari Lal Meena and Chaksu MLA Ved Prakash Solanki, who alleged that the state government is trying to suppress the voice of the legislators representing the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minority communities.

On Monday, BJP MLA Madan Dilawar also joined the Congress lawmakers and accused Joshi of making caste-based discrimination in the Assembly.

However, Joshi has refuted the allegations, saying that he treats all the Assembly members as equals. “I have never judged anyone based on their caste,” he said.

Meanwhile, Meena has made an open announcement that he would not hesitate to resign if the problems of the MLAs are not addressed. He also sought a meeting with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to discuss the matter. Accusing the ministers of following caste based discrimination, he said the ministers don’t meet MLAs such as Ameen Khan and Babulal Bairwa due to their caste.

His warning came a few days after he had an argument with Joshi in the Assembly over not having a microphone on his table.

Speaking to the media, Meena asked if the people’s representatives are not heard and taken seriously, how will the voice of those belonging to SC/ST and OBC communities be heard.

Meena also alleged discrimination over seating issues of MLAs from the marginalised communities, saying two SC ministers, Tikaram Jully and Bhajan Lal Jatav, don’t have a microphone on their tables.

On Monday, BJP MLA Madan Dilawar also accused the Speaker of caste discrimination.

He was speaking about crops destroyed by hailstorm during Zero Hour. When he started reading out the names of the villages affected by the hailstorm, the Speaker asked him to name his constituency and keep it short. But when Dilawar continued to read out the names of the villages, Joshi stopped him.

Infuriated, Dilawar said, “It is a farmers’ issue and you are stopping me as I belong to the SC.”

This left Joshi anguished and he sought opposition leader Gulab Chand Kataria’s intervention, saying all leaders are equals before him.

Meanwhile, former Speaker Kailash Meghwal confirmed with IANS that it is for the first time that such allegations have been levelled against the Speaker.

“This is for the first time that such caste based allegations have been levelled against the Speaker,” he added.

BJP state President Satish Poonia said that the Speaker should look into such issues and ensure that all MLAs get fair representation in the Assembly.

It needs to be mentioned here that all the three Congress MLAs have been part of former Seputy CM Sachin Pilot’s rebellion against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last year, while the BJP MLA has been a former minister and represents Ramgunj Mandi as its lawmaker.

The allegation of caste based discrimination comes ahead of the bypolls in four Assembly seats. While the polls on three seats — Rajsamand, Sujangarh and Sahada — are scheduled on April 17, the date for polling in Vallabhgarh is yet to be announced.