TWO FORMER Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs — Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Nazar Singh Manshahia — who had been summoned before the Vidhan Sabha Speaker in connection with their resignations as legislators, failed to appear before him on Tuesday citing other appointments.
Speaker Rana K P Singh had asked both leaders to appear before him to verify the authenticity of their resignations. While Bholath MLA Khaira said he had a medical check-up at a leading hospital in New Delhi, Mansa MLA Manshahia said that he had a court case to attend in Mansa.
A senior Vidhan Sabha official said that the Speaker will not give a new date for both MLAs to appear before him in order to process their resignations.
An odd situation has arisen with the resignations of some AAP MLAs as they are no longer associated with their parent party, on whose ticket they won the elections, but are technically still members of the legislative Assembly as their resignations as legislators have still not been accepted.
In contrast, the resignations of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal and BJP leader Som Parkash as MLAs following their election to the Lok Sabha were processed faster because of the time limit imposed for quitting the MLA seat after getting elected as a Member of Parliament (MP).
While Sukhpal Khaira resigned from AAP in January this year after forming the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP), he resigned as an MLA in April before contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Bathinda. Manshahia also resigned in April after joining Congress. The other AAP MLAs who resigned are Ropar MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa, who also joined Congress and Dakha MLA HS Phoolka. Faridkot MLA Baldev Singh has left AAP but has not resigned yet though the party has complained against him to the Speaker as he contested elections from Faridkot Lok Sabha seat on a PEP ticket.
It remains to be seen whether these MLAs will attend the forthcoming monsoon session of the House. “I will not attend the session as I will be out of the country,” said Khaira. The other MLAs are yet to make their positions clear.
Reacting to the developments, senior AAP leader and Sunam MLA Aman Arora said, “It is a very tricky and strange situation for us though it is the Speaker who has to take the call as per the Constitution and rules. However, the decision on our next move as a party has to be taken by state president Bhagwant Mann, Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema and chairman of the core committee Budh Ram.”
Former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Bir Devinder Singh said that if the Assembly Speaker does not decide on the resignations of MLAs, a move that entails disqualification under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, and yet the members in question decide to attend the ensuing Assembly session, the entailing circumstances would lead to “paradoxically strange situation and absurd spectacle” in the House.
“Such MLAs will have to share the same seating arrangement that existed prior to their resignation or switching over to other parties. The oddly new phenomenon could better be described as ‘live-in political relationship’ where you may enjoy flirting with other political parties, without severing formal ties with your original party. The political drama of the absurd is being enacted unashamedly in Punjab for quite some time now, with the Speaker being an accomplice,” added Bir Devinder Singh.
He further said that political morality and parliamentary ethics do not seem to be relevant anymore. “The onus to decide the matter, already protracted beyond a point, lies squarely with the Speaker. As per rule 51 (5) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the Speaker is bound to inform the House with regards to the position resignation of a member of the House,” he said.