The Ludhiana Grand Manor scam once again rocked the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Monday with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accusing Food and Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu of having threatened the inquiry officers in the case and disrespecting the high court even as Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said that the “Opposition was making a mountain out of a molehill”.
Demanding Ashu’s resignation, Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema and other AAP members raised the issue soon after the House assembled for the day. Cheema said that an audio clip has gone viral in which the minister is purportedly heard threatening the DSP who conducted the inquiry and another officer of the local government department. The AAP MLAs gathered in the well of the House and shouted slogans against Ashu and later walked out.
While AAP members were raising slogans against the government, Panchayat Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa appealed to them to raise the issue during the Zero Hour.
Ashu rose in his defence to say that he was willing to face any action. “Two days back when this issue was raised by (deputy Leader of Opposition Sarabjit Kaur) Manuke ji, I was not present in the House. I want to say that I am willing to face an inquiry from any agency of the government, from (local government minister Navjot Singh) Sidhu saab’s department, or anyone the CM desires. If I am found guilty, then I am ready to face any punishment. Form a committee of this House and the guilty should be punished,” he said.
Responding to Ashu, Cheema said that he wanted to play the audio clip and the minister should clarify if the voice was his or not. “You are talking about inquiry, the minister is threatening the inquiry officers and I want to play that audio. What inquiry is he (Ashu) talking about,” asked Cheema.
Speaker Rana K P Singh said that the audio clip could not be played in the House. Jail and Cooperation Minister, Sukhjinder Randhawa, said that when Ashu has said that a committee be formed then this should be done with representation from the Opposition also. Suspended AAP MLA, Kanwar Sandhu said that while a House committee was welcome, Ashu should resign from his post till the inquiry report comes.
The issue was once again raised by SAD MLA, Pawan Kumar Tinu, in the Zero Hour saying that he wanted to raise the question of “mafia in which two ministers of Punjab government are involved”. Taking the name of Grand Manor Homes, Tinu said both Ashu and Sidhu should resign immediately.
Former cabinet minister Bikram Majithia alleged that AAP had been instigated by Sidhu to raise the issue in the House. “They have been told to stand by the Local Government Minister. The other day he said ‘mantri hoye ya santri sab nu thounga, hun thok ke vikha (The other day he said he will spare no one whether minister or sentry, now walk the talk)”. This comment led to a sharp exchange of words between Sidhu and Majithia most of which was expunged by the Speaker.
Making a statement on the issue, the CM said the opposition was making a mountain out of a molehill. “Basically an inquiry report is being awaited. It has been received by the ministry, the department of local government is studying it. Comments of the municipal commissioner, Ludhiana, and other concerned officers will be sent. Then whatever corrective action is to be done we are prepared to take that,” he said.
The CM said that the Opposition cannot pr-empt issue. “Let the report come, then we will will take action. You are already declaring someone guilty. There is a law. There are rules and we have to go according to the law of the land,” he said.