Day two of the ongoing Budget Session was a day of slips, blushes and knee-jerk reactions for the ruling Congress that found itself cornered by the Opposition SAD-BJP and AAP on the issue of DGP Dinkar Gupta’s statement of Kartarpur Corridor and Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu’s 28-year-old confessional statement for harbouring terrorists to a police officer.
Even as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh stayed away from the House, the Congress was found wanting in floor strategy, cohesiveness and was unable to counter the attack by the Opposition that constantly protested during the entire proceedings of the House.
The party leaders were sent into a tizzy when the Speaker Rana Kanwar Pal Singh named the opposition MLAs and directed the marshalls to physically throw them out of the Assembly hall. Parlaimentary Affairs minister Brahm Mohindra, Panchayats and Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Technical Education Minister Charanjeet
Singh Channi, rushed to the Speaker in his chamber and asked him not to get them thrown out like that as it would give them “unnecessary publicity.” The Speaker finally agreed and he adjourned the House for the day.
SPEAKER ASKS MARSHALLS TO STEP IN
Noting that the protesting MLAs had tampered with the wires attached to the audio system of reporters of Vidhan Sabha who record proceedings due to which the speakers became non-functional, Rana K P Singh first named AAP MLAs and subsequently also named SAD MLAs, directing the marshals to take them out of the Vidhan Sabha.
“There is tampering done with the wires of the speakers. This is not acceptable. I name AAP leaders and direct marshals to remove them from the House,” Rana said, subsequently directing same for SAD legislators as well.
As the opposition parties’ MLAs continued to raise slogans, Rana made a request to them to go out on their own. He then adjourned the House for 15 minutes.
After this, the MLAs of AAP and SAD went to their seats and when marshals accompanied by a Punjab Police officers tried to drag an AAP MLA from his seat, leaders of both parties came together to oppose this, raising slogans.
As the House resumed after 15 minutes, Cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi urged Vidhan Sabha Speaker to take back the decision of removing AAP and SAD MLAs from house. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra also urged that the Vidhan Sabha Speaker should issue a warning to the concerned MLAs and take back his decision.
To this, Rana said, “Is it acceptable to break apparatus. He then addressed SAD legislative party leader Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, asking him “if it is appropriate to break apparatus of Vidhan Sabha reporters.”
As the AAP and SAD MLAs again started heading towards the well of the House raising slogans, the Speaker adjourned the House for the day.
Later speaking on condition of anonymity, a minister said: “Had the marshalls removed them, their videos of them being manually removed would have gone viral in the state. Why make them heroes.”
The CM, who had gone to Delhi on Sunday to receive an award, did not attend that day’s proceedings. Sources said he could not get back in time for session from Delhi. Resentment was prevailing among a few ministers and MLAs who were trying to contact the Chief Minister, “We are not able to get through to him,” rued a minister.
While the Opposition wanted a government representative to spell out government’s stand in the Assembly on DGP and Ashu’s issues, the Speaker had to keep repeating that the Chief Minister would answer on Tuesday. “I was pleading with them again and again. But they were not listening. They just wanted to disrupt the House. The Home Department is with the CM. It is his prerogative to speak on the DGP. Hence, I could not have asked any other minister to speak on the issue.”
CONGRESS MEMBERS LACK UNITY
In the face of vociferous protests, Congress members could not launch a strong-counter attack and were rather found shouting at each other. Amid the commotion during the Question Hour, and when the Speaker adjourned the House for half an hour, the Congress members were seen fighting amongst themselves. Jail Minister Sukhjinder
Randhawa was seen gesturing angrily to the MLAs to get up and launch a counter-attack but his pleas did not evoke any reaction. At one point while Randhawa was seen egging on others to speak up, Charanjeet Singh Channi was seen asking them to keep seated silently.
MLA Kulbir Zira and former Minister Rana Gurjit Singh even had a verbal spat when Zira told his party MLAs that none of them had reacted when the opposition was bashing the Gandhi family. To this Rana Gurjit took an offence and said why Zira was trying to show himself as the only loyal soldier. Both were pacified by their fellow colleagues. Rana Gurjit later told The Indian Express that he was taken aback as he was not told by anyone in the party as to what was to be done. “One person gets upand shouts at me for not speaking when I am not sounded out does not mean anything.”
NO CLP MEETING, RUE CONG MLAS
The Congress MLAs said that it was shocking that the party did not have any strategy to deal with the attack of opposition though the SAD had already announced on Saturday that they would not let the House function. “We did not get any calls. I did not know who was to speak during the discussion on Governor’s address. There was no meeting.
They should have held a Congress Legislative party (CLP) meeting to ensure that we were prepared. The session was at 2 pm today. We had a lot of time.”
Another MLA said that it was shocking to see that nobody was prepared, “We just sat there as mute spectators till Zira and Randhawa started getting angry and telling others that they should speak up. It is unfortunate that nobody attacked them.”
Ghanaur MLA Madan Lal Jalalpur was heard telling his colleagues that Akalis were so emboldened as the Congress government had not done anything against their wrong-doings, “Their illegal cable network still runs in Punjab. It is there in my constituency. Let us all cut their cables first,” he was heard telling his collegues, still on the treausery benches even after the House was adjourned during the Question Hour.
Jails Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, after the session was adjourned for the day told media, “My government has not taken any action against Akalis. That is why they are so emboldened. I will keep raising the voice. The decision is to be taken by the CM. People are waiting for action.”
RANDHAWA BACKS DGP
Randhawa, while criticising DGP’s statement on Kartarpur Sahib said he was shocked that Gupta had said. “I have attended several meetings of Government of India with the DGP on Kartarpur Corridor. He always backed the opening of the corridor strongly. He withstood pressure from Centre in saying that the Sikhs were not terrorists and that the corrdior should be opened.”
SPEAKER FOR HEAD PHONES
As the day was marred by protests and proceedings were barely audible, the Speaker said he would consider getting headphones for the members so that they could listen to the proceedings instead of getting the voice of the speakers lost in the commotion.
CONG ISSUES WHIP
The Congress has now asked all its MLAs to remain present in the House on Tuesday. Hardyal Kamboj, chief whip of the party told The Indian Express that he had verbally asked MLAs to ensure their presence. “They were mostly present today also.” he said.
A number of party MLAs and ministers had left the Assembly much before it was adjourned for the day and others had objected that they did not remain seated although the opposition had kept at the verbal attack on the ruling party. Congress has a strength of 80 MLAs in a house of 117.
(With inputs from ENS Chandigarh)
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