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Two days ahead of counting for the Punjab Assembly polls, the Haryana Assembly Thursday witnessed an uproar over Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal following which all INLD MLAs, who were shouting slogans against senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, were marshalled out. The INLD MLAs targeted Surjewala, MLA from Kaithal constituency, for his presence when the Congress had released poll manifesto for Punjab in January, which said Punjab did not have any spare water for its neighbour Haryana. Surjewala, who is also in-charge of communications wing of All India Congress Committee (AICC), had joined former PM Man Mohan Singh and other senior party leaders at the time of manifesto release for Punjab polls in New Delhi.
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“Punjab is elder brother to Haryana and merely sitting with our brothers doesn’t mean we have forgotten our rights on SYL,” Surjewala has been insisting. The SYL issue cropped up in the Assembly today when Surjewala was expressing his displeasure over the comments of a minister, Manish Grover, against Congress legislators. At this juncture, senior INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala stood up and attacked Surjewala for his presence during the release of Punjab Congress poll manifesto, saying it showed he endorsed the proposal against the SYL. “It’s unfortunate that state’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ram Bilas Sharma has welcomed him (Surjewala) in the Assembly today. It proves they are hand-in-glove,” Chautala said while demanding an apology from Surjewala. Soon, INLD MLAs started raising slogans against Surjewala, terming him “anti-Haryana” and “gaddar (traitor)”, and even urged the Speaker to send him out of the House.
Amid ruckus in the Assembly, Speaker Kanwar Pal Gujjar adjourned the House for 20 minutes and called both the ruling and Opposition legislators in his chamber for a meeting. The House was adjourned for another 30 minutes as the meeting was still going on between the Speaker and MLAs to sort out the issue. When the House resumed, the Speaker asked INLD member Jakir Hussain to read out his Calling Attention Notice given by him on the issue of cattle smuggling, but INLD legislators kept targeting Surjewala. The Speaker then named the INLD legislators suspending them for the remainder of the day before adjourning the House for another 15 minutes. However, INLD MLAs continued to occupy seats for 13 minutes before they were forced out by marshals, though, in a polite way. Later, the Speaker revoked their suspension following a request from the State Parliamentary Affairs minister. But the INLD MLAs did not turn up for the remaining period of session on Thursday.
Chautala said they would stick to their stance on Friday also. “We would urge the Speaker to first allow us to speak on the issue on Friday,” Chautala later told The Indian Express. But in a strong counter-attack, Surjewala blamed the Chautalas “for indulging in gaddari (betrayal) for compromising the state’s interests over SYL repeatedly”. “It is a well-known fact that Devi Lal (Abhay’s grandfather and former Deputy PM) had opposed the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. Lok Dal (now INLD) leaders had even showed black flags to the Eradi Commission,” said the Congress leader, adding that it was the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who was instrumental in ensuring proper water share to Haryana . “Touching any piece of paper (manifesto) does not make me anti-Haryana. Everybody knows that Chautalas and Parkash Singh Badal (Punjab CM) have close family relations and they even contested polls as alliance partners,” said Surjewala, justifying his presence at the time of manifesto release for Punjab.