BENGAL ASSEMBLY BLOOPER: Pop goes flash, top cop in a flap – Phone seized in Assembly, DGP says camera activated by mistake – Darjeeling SMS misfires for the 2 minute ruse later ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
FORWARDED BY LAZY DAISY
Calcutta, July 22: Officers, better get your boss’s right number, if you are trying to alert him about a crisis or forward him an SMS joke before Friday morning.
Bengal director-general of police Bhupinder Singh’s Nokia E series mobile phone, the one he apparently finds indispensable because of the important numbers stored in it, was confiscated this afternoon in the Assembly.
All because the flash of the camera phone got activated “by mistake” at the inopportune but photogenic moment of MLAs rushing into the well of the Assembly this afternoon and gave him away.
So at least for one night, Singh will have to get used to staying connected through his other phone, a BlackBerry.
The police chief was in the Assembly on tour of duty. His boss Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was to present the police budget and senior officers were expected to be at hand — in civvies — to help out in case any clarification was needed.
Unfortunately for Singh, the day began on a pugnacious note for the government and the Opposition. After a brawl over the chief minister’s comments on Mamata Banerjee’s demand for withdrawal of central forces from Maoist-hit areas, another was unfolding over the profound matter of the decline of communism in east Europe —– a topic raised by a Congress MLA.
Just when Congress MLAs rushed to the well to protest an interruption of their colleague by CPM legislators, pop went the flash of the camera phone in Singh’s hands.
The fleeting dazzle caught the eye of those present in the House, where mobile phones are not allowed by convention. Cameras are permitted only on special occasions at the Speaker’s discretion, unlike in Parliament where its two channels are allowed to broadcast proceedings.
The Congress MLAs then switched focus to the police chief, who was in the gallery behind where ministers sit. The chief minister was not in the House then.
An uproar erupted with the Congress MLAs demanding “immediate action” against Singh, who looked embarrassed with all the unwelcome attention he was attracting but remained seated.
A little later, the chief minister’s confidential assistant, Joydip Mukherjee, was seen talking to Singh, following which the police officer went out but returned after two minutes. What he did in those two minutes is not known.
Shortly after that, Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim came to the House and asked the government chief whip, Syed Mohammad Masih, to ask parliamentary affairs minister Sailen Sarkar to conduct an inquiry and send a report by tomorrow morning.
Later, Halim told the House: “There has been an incident of somebody taking pictures of the House proceedings. This is in violation of the established rules of the House. Nobody can enter the House with mobiles. The mobile has been confiscated and it’s currently in my possession. I will examine it, pass my ruling tomorrow and then allow members of the House to raise questions.’’
By then, the Congress legislators had walked out in protest and Singh was called by the chief minister to his Assembly chamber.
According to a CPM MLA, Singh told Bhattacharjee that he had no intention of taking pictures but it had happened inadvertently.
Singh later met the Speaker in the latter’s chamber and told him that he was trying to go through a text message but had mistakenly pushed the camera button, a source said.
“But the Speaker told the DGP that the camera and message buttons are different. The Speaker asked him to deposit his mobile with the Assembly. At this, Singh pleaded with the Speaker that some very important telephone numbers and information were stored in his mobile and it would be difficult for him to operate without it. But the Speaker said he should wait at least till tomorrow morning,” the source added.
Singh went to the parliamentary affairs minister’s chamber, spoke to him for a while and handed over his mobile, which was passed on to the Speaker.
Asked whether the camera was activated by mistake, Singh replied: “What else can it be?’’ He did not want to comment further as the matter was in the House.
Later in the evening, Singh said: “My phone is a Nokia E series. It is feather touch. Actually at that time, an SMS was coming in from Darjeeling saying the strike in the hills had been postponed. So I was trying to read it. But my finger accidentally fell on a button that activated the camera. But it was a mistake on my part.”
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had indeed made such an announcement in the hills in the afternoon.
But if the police chief’s subordinates need to keep him abreast of such developments before the fate of the seized phone is settled, they will have to send it to his BlackBerry.
There is no codified law against cellphones in the House but the ban is a convention.
According to an Assembly official, Singh may be censured by the Speaker and asked to tender an apology. Two years ago, the mobile phones of two MLAs were seized for talking inside the House. The phones were returned later.