BJP legislators on Tuesday staged a walkout from the Assembly to protest against the “steep rise” in dengue cases in the state after Speaker Biman Banerjee denied an adjournment motion brought by the Opposition.
The BJP MLAs led by the leader of the Opposition, Suvendu Adhikari, then took their protest outside the House as they tried to draw attention to the matter with two giant dummy mosquitoes.
Later, some legislators were seen distributing mosquito nets among bus passengers.
A day after holding noisy protests in the Assembly over fisheries minister Akhil Giri’s intemperate remarks against President Droupadi Murmu, the BJP tried to embarrass the Mamata Banerjee government on the question of vector control and came prepared for it in the House.
Siliguri BJP MLA Shankar Ghosh brought an adjournment motion to discuss the present dengue situation in the state, especially in north Bengal. Although Speaker Banerjee allowed Ghosh to read the motion, he denied any discussion on the issue.
“We were allowed to read out the adjournment motion but denied discussion. As the leader of the Opposition, I requested the Speaker to ask any minister to inform us about the present dengue situation as well as steps taken by the government to curb the steep rise in the cases. The health minister wasn’t there in the House and there was no one to share data with us,” Adhikari told reporters after staging the walkout.
Adhikari also slammed the government as well as the role of chief minister Mamata Banerjee in controlling the vector-borne disease.
“The chief minister had called a health review meeting yesterday as we were scheduled to protest in the Assembly on that issue. We distributed mosquito nets as a token of protest against the state’s slackness over the steep rise in dengue cases. We want the government to take proper care of the common people as the dengue situation this time is really turning grave,” he added.
Sources in the BJP said the party had sensed an opportunity to attack the government on the rise in dengue cases from the end of September. In the past few weeks, BJP leaders held multiple protest rallies in Calcutta and districts to highlight the government’s apparent failure in containing the vector-borne disease.
Adhikari had on November 7 sent a four-page letter to Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya urging for immediate central intervention to save the people of Bengal from the “mismanaged” dengue situation.
In the letter, he also mentioned that Bengal reported the highest dengue cases in the past five years and the state failed to take proper actions to prevent the situation.
Armed with junior Union health minister Bharati Pravin Pawar’s allegation that the Bengal government had not been sharing dengue data with the Centre, the BJP leaders have been attacking Mamata, who is also the health minister.
“The plan was to scale up the scope of the protest and that’s why all scenes were enacted in the Assembly,” said a source in the BJP.
Bengal this year reported over 60,000 dengue cases sofar and at least six districts, including Calcutta, have reported several hotspots.
Although the BJP legislators claimed that the situation was turning critical, senior health department officials in the state claimed that there was already a downtrend in the number of dengue cases. On Monday, Bengal reported 419 cases as 6,365 people were tested.
“Earlier, there were around 800-950 cases regularly. The dengue cases are now restricted to 500. We hope the situation will be under control as the mercury falls,” said a senior state health department official in Calcutta.