Punjab: Speaker to meet Cong MLAs to ascertain they didn’t quit under duress

All 42 Congress MLAs had submitted their resignations to Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretary Shashi Lakhanpal Mishra on November 11 as Atwal was not present.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh | Updated: December 15, 2016 12:05:16 am
punjab assembly, punjab assembly speaker, congress mlas punjab, amarinder singh, punjab assembly resignation Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab Vidhan Sabha Wednesday. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

PUNJAB ASSEMBLY Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal has decided to conduct one-to-one hearing with Congress MLAs for three days next week to ensure that they did not resign “under pressure”. This comes more than a month after they resigned following the Supreme Court ruling against Punjab on the contentious SYL issue.

If convinced, the Speaker may accept the resignations. All 42 Congress MLAs had submitted their resignations to Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretary Shashi Lakhanpal Mishra on November 11 as Atwal was not present. The MLAs had announced their resignations following the SC order on presidential reference relating to the SYL canal project.

Since then, the resignations have not been accepted. The Congress MLAs did not attend the special session of the Assembly on SYL on November 16 even as the Speaker had reserved his decision to take a call on their resignations.

“I have called the Congress MLAs next week. I will meet them one by one for three days. I want to see whether they resigned on their own will or were under pressure to resign. After listening to them, I would take a call on their resignations,” Atwal told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

Congress MLA Tarlochan Soondh, who had hurled a shoe at the Treasury Bench during an Assembly session this year alleging casteist remarks, said, “I have been told to meet Vidhan Sabha Speaker on December 22 at 3 pm. I will go.”

One of the staff attached to Atwal made the phone calls to Congress leaders briefing them about their meeting with the Speaker.

Congress MLA from Batala Ashwani Sekhri said, “I have not received any call. After December 20, I am going to Gujarat for 10 days in connection with Rahul [Gandhi] ji’s programmes.” Congress Legislature Party chief Charanjit Singh Channi, too, said he had not received any “telephone call” to meet the Speaker.

“A few MLAs have told me that they got the calls. But, I have not been informed about any meeting. I will definitely go, if Speaker has called MLAs. They may have made a call, but sometimes we miss the call,” said Kuljit Singh Nagra, the Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib.

“Is the Speaker going to accept the resignations?” said Ludhiana Central MLA Surinder Singh Dawar, who is scheduled to meet Atwal on December 22.

While Congress MLAs are bragging about resigning over SYL in the ineterst of the state, many see the resignations being high on symbolism as they have not surrenderd their perks. “Till our resignation is not accepted, we are entitled to [what an MLA gets],” argued Soondh, adding that the vehicle provided to MLAs was indeed a security vehicle. About the flats for MLAs, he said, “Even if one ceases to be an MLA, [he or she] gets a few months to shift from the flat.” Other Congress MLAs, too, seconded that. “Is politics not involved when after more than one month, our resignations have not been accepted?” asked Nagra, adding that after one month, the MLAs have been called by the Speaker.

“I have told the driver to take away the vehicle, but he says there are no orders from the government,” said Hardial Singh Kamboj, the Congress MLA from Rajpura.

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