THE 15TH Punjab Assembly began on Friday with the oath-taking ceremony of the MLAs. Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal were the only MLAs, who did not turn up to take oath.
The Pro-Tem Speaker of the Assembly, Rana KP Singh, administered the oath to the MLAs, beginning first with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, followed by members of his Cabinet and leader of opposition from Aam Aadmi Party, H S Phoolka. The CM took the oath in Punjabi amidst loud thumping of desks by the treasury benches.
A government official informed that 114 MLAs were administered oath with the 115th being the Pro-Tem Speaker, who had been given oath of office by the Governor a day earlier. “Only the former chief minister and deputy chief minister were not present in the House today,” the official said. A senior Akali leader informed that Badal and Sukhbir would either take oath on March 27 when the election for Speaker takes place or on March 28, the day of the Governor’s address.
After Amarinder, senior-most Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra took oath, followed by other ministers, including Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Singh Badal, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Rana Gurjit Singh, Charanjit Singh Channi, two ministers of state (independent charge) Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana.
The MLAs were administered the oath in alphabetical order of the names of their constituencies. SAD MLA from Majitha, Bikram Singh Majithia, former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Dera Bassi MLA N K Sharma and senior SAD leader Ajit Singh Kohar were among those administered the oath from the Akali ranks.
Majithia, Kohar and Sharma were seated in the first row of the opposition benches along with two BJP MLAs, Som Parkash from Phagwara and Dinesh Singh Babbu from Sujanpur. Senior AAP leader HS Phoolka occupied the seat earmarked for leader of opposition while his colleagues, Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu, also occupied the front benches. The two Independent MLAs from Ludhiana, Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains, also occupied the front benches of the opposition.
A meeting of the business advisory committee of the Assembly was held after the session had concluded for the day. Representatives of all political parties took part in the meeting which included Phoolka, Mohindra and Dhindsa. According to Phoolka, the Speaker informed that the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker would be held on March 27 while Governor V P Singh Badnore would address the Assembly on March 28 and the vote on account would take place on March 29. “We wanted a debate on the Governor’s address. But the Speaker said that there was not enough time in this session and that it would be done at a subsequent date with at least three days devoted to it,” said Phoolka.
The Congress won 77 seats in the 117-member Assembly, wresting power from the SAD-BJP alliance after a decade. AAP won 20 seats, relegating the SAD-BJP alliance to a poor third with 18 seats. Of the 20 AAP members, 19 are first-time MLAs. AAP chief whip Sukhpal Singh Khaira was Congress MLA in 2002.