The Monsoon Session of the Punjab Assembly will be an interesting one with two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs — Baldev Singh from Jaitu and Amarjit Singh Sandoa from Ropar, who have resigned from the party and the Assembly, respectively — deciding to attend the session which begins Friday.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Baldev Singh said that he will attend the session as he has resigned from membership of AAP and not the Assembly. Baldev Singh had quit the party to fight Lok Sabha elections from Faridkot constituency on Punjab Ekta Party (PEP) ticket. “I will definitely attend the session,” he said. Similarly, Sandoa, who resigned from the party and the Assembly to join Congress also said that he will attend the session. “I will attend the session for sure. Why should I not. My resignation has not yet been accepted,” he said.
AAP has lost five MLAs to resignations and defections. Another AAP MLA, who quit the party and joined the Congress, Nazar Singh Manshahia from Mansa said that he had not yet made up his mind.
“There are several aspects to this issue. One is practicality, other is technicality and third is morality. I will think about it as tomorrow the session will only comprise obituary references. I will ask my friends and well wishers before making any decision,” he said.
The fourth AAP MLA to have quit, HS Phoolka, categorically said that he would not be attending the session. “I have requested the Speaker to accept my resignation at the earliest so that the bypoll to my constituency, Dakha, can take place along with that of Jalalabad and Phagwara. I even said that I could again give my resignation in whatever format he requires even though I have given a one liner resignation earlier as per the format,” he said.
Punjab Ekta Party President, Sukhpal Singh Khaira had also resigned from AAP and the Assembly though his resignation has also not been as per the required format and he has also not appeared before the Speaker, Rana KP Singh, on July 30 to re-tender his resignation in person. He has, however, clarified that he would not be attending the session as he will be out of the country.
The brief Monsoon Session of Punjab Assembly beginning Friday is unlikely to cause any major trouble for the treasury benches with depleted and divided opposition ranks arrayed against them following the resignations of MLAs from Aadmi Aadmi Party (AAP), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The session, which will effectively take place only for two days on Aug 5 and 6, has more to do with the constitutional requirement of having a sitting within a specified time limit then any serious attempt to debate, discussion or legislation. The opposition parties, including AAP and SAD-BJP combine, have petitioned the Speaker for extending the duration of the session but this appears unlikely.
The dissident AAP MLAs who plan to attend the session would have to be seated separately as they cannot retain the seats of their parent party on whose symbol they won the election.
About issues that AAP will raise, party MLA from Budhlada, Budh Ram: “A formal decision will be taken in the meeting of the legislative wing of the party Friday at 12 pm, but the issue of high unmployment is a very pressing one. We shall also raise the deplorable state of health facilities in the state and the education sector.”
On the SAD-BJP side, this would be the first time in the present Assembly that SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal would not be present. He had resigned from the membership after being elected Ferozepur MP. The three member BJP team in the House has also been left depleted with Phagwara MLA, Som Parkash, having resigned his seat after getting elected as Hoshiarpur MP.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra said that the four Bills cleared to be tabled in the Monsson Session by the Cabinet will be placed before the House. These incldue the Sports University Bill and the Punjab Excise Act Amendment Ordnance which has to be placed as a Bill. Commenting on the opposition demand for a longer session, Mohindra said that the meeting of Business Advisory Committee will be held Friday after the obituary session and the opposition can place their demand there. “If there is business to be conducted then the duration of session can be increased,” he said.