Stating that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs were not available for sale, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann Tuesday moved a confidence motion in the Vidhan Sabha, days after Governor Banwarilal Purohit had withdrawn his assent to hold a day-long special sitting of the House citing that rules don’t allow calling a session for tabling only a trust motion. The voting on the confidence motion will be held on October 3, the concluding day of the session.
Mann tabled the confidence motion in the absence of the main Opposition Congress members, who were earlier named and suspended by Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan for protesting in the House, and the two BJP members who had walked out of the Assembly in protest against not being invited to business advisory committee meeting. Only three members of the Shiromani Akali Dal and one of its ally Bahujan Samaj Party were present on the opposition benches.
AAP had recently claimed that the BJP, under its “Operation Lotus”, had approached at least 10 of its MLAs with an offer of Rs 25 crore each in a bid to topple the six-month-old government. The Assembly session — third of the 16th Vidhan Sabha — was convened following Governor’s assent on Sunday after days of squabble between the Raj Bhavan and AAP government over it. Governor, who had withdrawn permission to hold a special session on September 22 to bring a confidence motion only, had approved the government’s request to convene the House on Tuesday after it informed him that issues like stubble burning, goods and services tax and power supply will be taken up. It had maintained silence on any plans to bring the confidence motion.
As Mann moved the motion accusing BJP of trying to topple his government and the Congress of siding with it, the saffron party held a mock Assembly session in Sector 17 and brought a “no-confidence motion” against the AAP government. The Congress MLAs too held a mock session outside the Vidhan Sabha.
Mann described the Congress and BJP as two sides of the same coin. “BJP is using the anti-defection law as a new tool to form governments through back door and the Congress, that has lost its MLAs and CMs to the saffron party, is supporting it,” said Mann.
He further said, “Our members are not available for sale in the market. They are people’s representatives. They have been elected after the people rejected these (opposition) members”.
Mann said that BJP has toppled the elected governments in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and others by luring the MLAs. However, he said, the BJP failed in its “sinister moves thrice in Delhi and now in Punjab”.
He said the BJP will never succeed in Punjab. “Government is doing good work. People are getting zero power bills. Mohalla clinics have started functioning. They (opposition leaders) have even challenged the One MLA One Pension scheme (in high court). They want people’s money. No matter where it comes from,” Mann said.
He said there was a quid pro quo between BJP and Congress. “The example is Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is passing through all the states except those going to elections. This is being done to help BJP and keep AAP out. But who can stop the rivers?”
The CM said that turncoats were ruling the roost now and former Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh, who had tacitly towed the line of BJP during his stint as chief minister, has now formally joined the party. Training his guns on former CM Charanjit Singh Channi, he said that for the first time, the CM face of a political party has gone missing after defeat in polls.
“Where is Charanjit Channi? Why has he run away? It means he did something wrong?,” said Mann.
Mann said he has tabled the trust motion “just to show that people have confidence in us; all 92 (ruling party) MLAs will keep this trust.”.
“Punjab is moving towards a change. It is now visible. I do not say I have a magic wand and I will transform in six months. But at least we are trying,” he said, adding that the AAP did not form the government to sit at home and emerge towards the fag end of the term.
“Today, BJP is organising a mock session. Amarinder Singh is acting as CM outside a cinema in Chandigarh. They should enter the cinema and act there rather,” he said.
Earlier, the Speaker had to adjourn the House thrice due to protest by the Congress members.
After the House reassembled following obituary references, the Speaker informed the House about the confidence motion being brought by the CM. He also said the session has been extended till October 3.
Speaking om the motion, Cabinet minister Aman Arora accused Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa Bajwa, Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira and BJP state president and MLA Ashwani Sharma of pressing upon the Governor to cancel the special session
The Congress members got up from their benches and started protesting in the well of the house.
The also termed the move to table the confidence motion as “illegal”. Bajwa said, “By tabling confidence motion, the government has shown scant regard for the constitutional head. I condemn this on the floor of the House.”
To this the Speaker said, “The chair has to decide which motion is to be taken up.”
The CM intervened and said, “Those who are teaching us rules should educate themselves that any motion can be tabled in the House with the permission from the chair. They could not protect their own rights in Rajasthan, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. What is your loss if Operation Lotus fails?”
Khaira sought zero hour from the Speaker who told him that ample time will be given to them later. But Khaira along with other Congress MLAs stuck to their demand. As Congress leaders continued to protest, the Speaker named all the party MLAs and ordered that they be marshalled out of the House. He also adjourned the house for 15 minutes. The Congress members, however, continued to raise slogan and did not leave the House despite pleas by watch and ward staff. The Speaker had to adjourn the house for 10 more minutes. After that the Congress members left the Assembly hall.