In a major embarrassment for the Congress, its MLA from Batala, Ashwini Sekhri, showed little inclination to take part in the protest being raised in the Assembly by party legislators over the SYL issue on Wednesday.
Reflecting the Congress’ poor coordination and floor management, Sekhri not only seemed disinterested in raising the issue but also took up another issue in the zero hour after the Speaker allowed him to speak. Taking no note of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, Charanjit Singh Channi, was still speaking and trying to gather the Speaker’s attention, Sekhri took up his own issue.
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Realising that Sekhri seemed to be charting his own course, fellow Congress MLAs frantically asked him to sit down and take part in the SYL debate. Senior Congress leader Brahm Mohindra, who was sitting next to Sekhri, also tried to convince him to stop but Sekhri could be heard saying that he will speak as the Speaker has allowed him to do so.
Eventually, several Congress MLAs, including Rana Gurjit, came over to where Sekhri was sitting and could be seen pleading with him to remain quiet. Congress MLA from SAS Nagar, Balbir Singh was seen talking to Sekhri with folded hands.
Sekhri looked plainly annoyed and could be heard saying: “SYL hee kari jaana” (Only SYL will be raised).” Eventually, though, he gave up and and stood up silently with other Congress MLAs gathered in the well.
Speaking to The Indian Express in the CLP office, Leader of Opposition Channi tried to defend Sekhri, saying he did not know that the party had decided on a particular course of action as he was not present at the meeting held earlier. “There is no reason other than the fact that he was not aware of the line that was to be taken,” Channi said.
However, this is the second consecutive assembly session in which Congress has managed to score a self-goal, that too through Sekhri. In the last session, Sekhri had left the Congress benches flummoxed when in the middle of a debate in which the ruling alliance was being cornered, he made the announcement that he had been threatened by two fellow party MLAs on the premises of the assembly.
The Speaker had referred the matter to the privileges committee after Sekhri alleged that Tanda MLA Sangat Singh Gilzian and the then Khadoor Sahib MLA, Ramajit Sikki, had threatened him. At that time too, Sekhri had not paid heed to requests from fellow MLAs to remain silent and the Akali ranks had taken full advantage of the discomfort in the Congress.