Congress MLAs wear masks in House to protest H1N1 deaths
The Congress MLAs surprised their BJP colleagues when they walked into the Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday wearing medical masks, purportedly to protest the remark made by state Health Minister Nitin Patel on Tuesday that the Opposition was happy about the swine flu deaths in the state.
Even as leader of the Opposition, Shankersinh Vaghela, later defended before mediapersons saying that MLAs wore masks to "prevent getting infected by the swine flu virus", Speaker Vajubhai Vala objected to the wearing of masks and asked the Opposition to remove them as it amounted to demonstration in the House, which the rules did not allow.
The Congress MLAs walked out within minutes protesting government "inaction" despite rising number of swine flu deaths in the state. They were unhappy also because the Speaker refused to suspend question hour for a discussion on swine flu deaths.
Tempers were already high due to earlier remark by Health Minister Nitin Patel that the Opposition was "rejoicing" over increasing swine flu cases as it was "smelling political gains".
When the Congress did not heed the Speaker's orders, Patel proposed that they be suspended for a day "if they did not remove their masks". The MLAs led by Vaghela then walked out since their demand on swine flu deaths was not met.
Vala did not oblige saying the House had already discussed the issue and there was no need to suspend the question hour session and asked the MLAs to remove the masks.
Leaving the House they shouted slogans: "Gujarat Bachavo, Gujarati Bachavo, Swine Flu thi Gujarat bachao" and "Rajinamu aapo, Rajinamu aapo Aarogya mantri raajinamu aapo," (Save Gujarat, Save Gujaratis. Resign, health minister).
After the Opposition left, the Speaker told Vaghela to withdraw his motion which he did and the question hour began minus the Opposition. Chief Minister Narendra Modi quietly watched the goings-on.
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