Denied permission by the Governor to hold a special sitting of the Vidhan Sabha to table a confidence motion, the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government in Punjab Thursday decided to summon a regular Assembly session on September 27. The state government will also move the Supreme Court over the Raj Bhavan move’s to withdraw the permission for the special session that was earlier scheduled for Thursday.
The decision to call a regular Assembly session, likely to be day-long, was taken in an emergency meeting of the Cabinet called and chaired by Chief Minister Mann.
“It was unanimously decided that the Vidhan Sabha session will be summoned on September 27 to discuss issues like paddy stubble burning and electricity,” said Mann.
Functionaries with the ruling party, however, hinted that the government could also bring a motion to “prove” that it enjoys a majority in the House, despite the alleged attempts by the BJP to “poach” its legislators under ‘Operation Lotus’.
Asked about it, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema said the business advisory committee of the House will decide which business is to be taken up on that day.
Cheema also asked why the Governor preferred the additional solicitor general of India over the state advocate general for legal opinion on the matter. “It was a black day when the Governor passed this order. He passed this order on the advice of the additional solicitor general of India, who is a former BJP MP,” said Cheema.
Later, in a statement, Mann the state government will approach the Supreme Court against the “arbitrary and anti-democratic” decision of the Governor, by which he withdrew the permission to hold the special session. “It is an attack on democracy,” he said.
The CM also slammed the Congress while accusing it of supporting the “Operation Lotus” in a quid pro quo with BJP. “The Congress has welcomed the Governor’s orders. It is ironical as the Congress is the biggest victim of poaching of MLAs by the BJP under Operation Lotus,” said Mann.
He said the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP are “hand in glove” for this “sinister” move, aimed at toppling the democratically elected government. Mann said they will not be threatened by pressure tactics. Punjab will send a message to the entire country that in democracy people are supreme, he added.
Earlier, following the order from the Raj Bhavan, CM and other senior AAP leaders had huddled up with the officials late on Wednesday night and decided to call a regular session so that the Governor is not able to deny the permission. The notice of Cabinet meeting was issued last night. Before the Cabinet meeting, the CM called a meeting of AAP legislature party at 9 am. In the meeting, it is learnt, that the CM spoke about the Operation Lotus. He is learnt to have named the MLAs who had allegedly got calls from the BJP to cross over.
Later, when the Council of Ministers was busy putting stamp of approval on the regular session during a meeting at the civil secretariat, the AAP legislators started a peace march from the Vidhan Sabha premises towards Raj Bhavan. They were, however, stopped midway by Chandigarh Police. They then sat on a dharna.
Sources within AAP said that while the CM mentioned power and paddy stubble as the issues to be discussed in the House, the government wrote to the Governor to summon the session for “legislative business.” The government’s communication has not mentioned power and stubble, a source said. He also said that it was not specified whether the session would be one day or two day long.
“We have left it to the Speaker and the Business Advisory Committee (BAC). They will decide,” a government functionary said.
However, sources said that in the legislature committee meeting, when the issue of holding a regular session was debated, it was brought to the attention of the CM that September 26 was Aggarsen Jayanti and a government holiday. Similarly, Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary falls on September 28 and the CM has already scheduled his visit to the freedom fighter’s native place Khatkar Kalan. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also tentatively scheduled to visit the village.
The Chief Minister’s Office, in a statement, said that as per Clause (1) of Article 174 of the Constitution of India, the Governor is authorised to summon the State Legislature to meet at such time and place, as he thinks fit. However, there should not be a time gap of more than six months between two sessions of the Assembly. The second (budget) session of the 16th Punjab Vidhan Sabha concluded on June 30, so the Cabinet has recommended convening the third session of the Assembly on September 27. The government had, however, not received any communication from the Governor office till Thursday evening.