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Legislators go berserk as budget presented in assembly

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Legislators go berserk as budget presented in assembly
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Thiruvananthapuram: Despite a pandemonium breaking out in the state assembly on Friday with the opposition Left legislators going berserk, breaking the speaker's chair and computer, the controversy-embroiled Finance Minister K.M. Mani presented the state budget with "a lot of pride".

All the Left members as well as Mani stayed back in the assembly premises for the night on Thursday. On Friday morning, the atmosphere was tense as angry Left legislators prevented Mani from entering the house.

He had to be escorted into the house by the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) members and a huge battery of security staff so that he could read out the budget, the 13th he has presented during his political career.

"You all know the troubles I had to undergo to fulfil my constitutional obligation. With a lot of pride I presented my 13th budget and have proved that 13 is not an unlucky number," Mani told reporters in the assembly complex.

Trouble was brewing since Thursday afternoon when all the Left legislators stayed back in the assembly for the night to ensure that Mani is not allowed to enter the assembly. They have been accusing him of taking a bribe of Rs.1 crore to reopen the liquor bars the state closed down, and have demanded his resignation.

When the house assembled for the day's proceedings at 9 a.m. on Friday, members of the opposition damaged Speaker N. Sakthan's chair and computer. Sakthan and Mani were unable to enter the floor of the assembly on their first attempt and had to retreat to their cabins.

Sakthan then gave his clearance to present the budget from his office which - the Left pointed out - is against the rules of the assembly.

And so members of the UDF came to Mani's rescue and escorted him to this seat in the house. After reading a few sentences from his printed address, he tabled the budget amid high drama.

Left legislator V. Sivankutty - who was seen throwing away the electronic equipment from the speaker's podium - and two women legislators were admitted to a hospital here after they were injured in a scuffle between security guards and the treasury bench legislators.

Outside the assembly complex, the Left and the youth wing of the BJP continued their protest since Thursday evening, pressing for Mani's resignation. On Friday, police chased them away using lathis, grenades and water cannons.

CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said that their protest was a success.

Playing down the ruckus inside the house, Mani said he is not giving any importance to what happened on the floor of the house. However, he said he was sad that the Left opposition did not allow him to make his conventional visit to the church before his budget speech.

"Ahead of all the 12 budgets that I presented before, I used to go to the church here and pray and then come to the assembly. I am sad that this time it could not take place," said Mani.

Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said all the conventions of presenting the budget were not followed.

"The speaker was not on the dais. He has to be present on the floor and has to give the order to present the budget. Women legislators were attacked by the ruling front legislators....," he told reporters.

A police vehicle was set ablaze near the assembly complex by the protesters.

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