The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab Monday won the confidence motion it had tabled in the Vidhan Sabha with 91 of total 92 ruling party legislators voting in its favour even as the main opposition Congress and the BJP abstained from voting. The only AAP MLA who didn’t vote is Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan, who, however, landed in a controversy over counting of “additional” votes in the favour of the government.
The Speaker claimed 93 votes in favour of the motion, including that of Shiromani Akali Dal legislator Manpreet Singh Ayali and BSP MLA Nachhatar Pal, who were present in the House. The two leaders, however, later wrote to Sandhwan saying they opposed the trust vote.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had moved the confidence motion on September 27, days after the AAP accused the BJP of trying to topple the six-month-old government by poaching its MLAs under “Operation Lotus”.
ਵਿਸ਼ਵਾਸ ਮਤੇ ‘ਤੇ ਚਰਚਾ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਵਿਧਾਨ ਸਭਾ ਤੋਂ LIVE https://t.co/sV3YO4Ihvq
— Bhagwant Mann (@BhagwantMann) October 3, 2022
The BJP boycotted the entire session accusing the AAP government of violating the Constitution by bringing the confidence motion. The Congress members, on the other hand, had staged a walkout from the House when the Speaker asked MLAs to vote in favour of or against the motion by raising their hands.
Announcing the results, the Speaker said 91 AAP MLAs supported the motion. He added that one of the three SAD members who was present in the House and the lone BSP MLA “did not oppose the motion”.
“So, 93 MLAs have supported the motion and none is against it. Thus, the motion is unanimously passed,” the Speaker said.
However, later Ayali said he had opposed the motion. He also said that he informed the Speaker about his decision, and that from day one, the party was against it.
“We opposed it. Had we favoured it, we would have raised our hands when the Speaker asked. We did not raise hands,” Ayali told the Indian Express.
Ayali and Pal, later, wrote to the Speaker and claimed that they voted against the motion but their votes were counted in favour of the state government under “some misconception”. They asked the Speaker that their votes be counted against the motion and urged him to set the record right.
The BSP is an ally of SAD and both had jointly contested the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls. In the 117-member Assembly, the AAP has 92 MLAs, Congress 18, SAD 3, BJP 2, BSP 1 while 1 is an Independent.
The AAP had earlier claimed that at least 10 of its MLAs were approached by the BJP with an offer of Rs 25 crore to each of them in a bid to topple the government.
As the discussion on the motion began, the Congress MLAs staged a walkout demanding that Zero Hour be taken up before debating the confidence motion.
AAP MLA Sheetal Angural was the first one to take part in the discussion on Monday. Angural said he has submitted to the State Vigilance Bureau all details, including call recording and mobile phone number and names, besides a “sting” he did when three people, including two who identified themselves as advocates of the high court, met him on BJP’s behalf and offered money for switching sides. In the sting that he carried out, Angural claimed that those who met him could be heard as saying that they will “arrange” a meeting with two ministers at the Centre. Angural said he was told that out of the two, the junior minister would make available Rs 25 crore [for switching sides]. Angural named the two ministers in the Vidhan Sabha.
Taking part in the debate, Mann said, “Faith of people has won in Punjab and the forces who had tried to purchase the verdict of masses have got a major blow.”
Mann said that the motion was brought in Vidhan Sabha to show that the state government enjoys the confidence of the people. He said it was necessitated as both Congress and BJP have “joined hands to topple the democratically elected government in the state”. He said that “BJP is mastering the art to form governments in the state through back door” in the country. Hitting out at BJP, he alleged that “loktantra” (democracy) is being made into “paisatantra” and ‘loot tantra’.”
“The country faces two threats — one internal and another external. Internal threat is very dangerous, this is what is going on in the country at this time,” he said.
The CM said that 18 Congress MLAs, who represent at least 12-13 lakh voters, walked out from the House but they should have remained present and supported the motion because their party in many states has seen legislators joining the BJP.
The day is not far when the Congress will open offices in the country with the tagline: “Ethe lokaan dwara chune hoye vidhayak saste vich veche jaande han (Here democratically elected MLAs are sold cheap).”
Slamming Bajwa, Mann said it is unfortunate he had become a “puppet” in the hands of the saffron party. He said the senior Congress leader will be now known as Partap Singh “Bhajpa” after his “dubious role to scuttle democracy in the state has been exposed”.
After the motion was passed, Mann said, “Faith of people has won in Punjab and the forces who had tried to purchase the verdict of masses have got a major blow.”
SAD MLA Ayali said he opposed the motion, stating that there was no need for it as nobody demanded from the AAP to prove the majority. He said if money was offered to AAP MLAs, then proof of claims should have been provided.
BSP MLA Pal, while speaking on the confidence motion, said a “very good issue” has been brought by the AAP government, amid thumping of desks by the treasury benches.
“Your issue is very good. I was listening to all MLAs and all are united,” he said in the House as he criticized the BJP for allegedly indulging in buying MLAs to form its government.
AAP MLA Dinesh Chadha also hit out at the Congress and said, “We saw what happened in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Goa. The party whose MLAs have switched over the most should have said that they support this confidence motion. Rather, Congress MLAs claim there is no provision in the Constitution for bringing confidence motion.” “We have all the proof,” claimed Chadha as he was referring to the offer of Rs 25 crore each to AAP legislators.
Earlier, after the Speaker announced the start of the debate on the confidence motion, the Congress legislators rose from their seats and demanded more time for Zero Hour to allow them to raise the issues of Punjab.
When the Speaker did not agree, they trooped to the well of the House and then staged a walkout.
Later, the House was adjourned sine die.