MP speaker to set up panel as Congress demands Nehru's portrait in assembly

Umang Singhar demanded that the portrait of India's first prime minister be reinstalled in the house

Jawaharlal Nehru (photo: National Herald archives)
Jawaharlal Nehru (photo: National Herald archives)


Amid a row over the removal of Jawaharlal Nehru's portrait from the Madhya Pradesh assembly, newly-elected speaker Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said a committee of MLAs will be constituted to decide about the installation of pictures of "great leaders" in the house.

The Congress has been targeting the ruling BJP over the removal of the portrait of the country's first prime minister. The portrait was installed on the wall behind the speaker's chair before it was replaced with that of BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, in July.

The issue was raised by Opposition leader Umang Singhar and other Congress MLAs in the assembly after proceedings began on Wednesday which saw governor Mangubhai Patel delivering the customary address. The first session of the 16th Madhya Pradesh assembly got underway on Monday, 18 December.

Singhar demanded that a portrait of Nehru be reinstalled in the House as he was a tall leader of the country and had made significant contributions to nation-building. He said a portrait of India's first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel should also be put up in the assembly.

BJP MLA Kailash Vijaywargiya suggested it would be better if the speaker set up a committee of legislators to decide on the issue of putting up portraits of leaders inside the house and such issues are resolved based on its recommendations.

Chief minister Mohan Yadav also intervened in the matter. "As per legislative traditions, the house is adjourned for the day after the governor's address and no other issue can be raised. The Opposition can raise this matter in the house again tomorrow," he said.

Amid the demands raised by Congress, Tomar, who was unanimously elected as the speaker of the assembly, said a committee of MLAs would be formed to decide issues like the installation of portraits of great leaders and aspects like the place where the portraits would be put up and on what occasions (birth or death anniversaries) among other things.

Based on recommendations of the committee, such decisions will be taken, the speaker said and later adjourned the house for the day. Earlier in the day, Congress MLAs staged a protest in the assembly building premises and demanded that a portrait of the first prime minister be reinstalled in the house.

Legislators of the Opposition Congress, while holding the portraits of Nehru, Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, raised slogans hailing Nehru. Security personnel stopped them and the MLAs were later allowed to enter the house without carrying the portraits.

Before entering the assembly building, the Congress MLAs staged a demonstration in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue in the legislature complex.

MP assembly principal secretary AP Singh on Tuesday (19 December) said the portrait of Nehru was replaced with one of Ambedkar during the last session only.

"The then speaker Girish Gautam had directed to replace the portrait (of Nehru) in the last session in July as it was very old and getting worn out.

"As Ambedkar's 125th birth anniversary was being observed at that time, the speaker directed to put his portrait in place of Nehru and also ensured that Nehru's portrait was kept in a respectful manner in the Gandhi-Nehru section of the library," Singh said.

The Congress has accused the ruling BJP of disrespecting a "nation builder" leader like Nehru even as it welcomed displaying the portrait of Ambedkar in the Assembly. The opposition party had said Ambedkar's portrait could have been placed along with the photos of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.

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