The Punjab Vidhan Sabha Friday unanimously passed a privilege motion moved against the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislators after they gheraoed the house of Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and prevented him from arriving in time at the assembly to present the Budget.
The Budget speech was be taken up at 11 am after the completion of Question Hour but this could not be done as Manpreet was stuck at his house. Around 10 minutes before the completion of the Question Hour, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra apprised Speaker Rana KP Singh and the House that the Finance Minister was unable to get out of his house as the Akali legislators and their supporters had blocked his way.
The Akalis were holding a protest outside Manpreet’s residence over the issue of farm suicides along with the kin of the victim farmers. The MLAs and their supporters were detained by the Chandigarh Police and taken to the Sector 3 Police Station. They were later released after the conclusion of the days’ proceedings at the Vidhan Sabha.
“It is an unconstitutional situation. It is a Budget for Punjab and meant for people of the state,” said Mohindra. He added that he feared that if the situation continued to prevail, the Budget could not be presented.
Mohindra sought to bring a privilege motion against SAD MLAs. The Speaker agreed following which Mohindra replied that the Chair should take it up.
The Speaker said that he will take up the matter with the Union Territory Administrator. The House was then adjourned for 20 minutes after the Question Hour.
Soon after the adjournment, the Finance Minister arrived. After the proceedings resumed, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister moved a privilege motion against SAD legislators. Quoting parliamentary law cited by certain experts, the minister said that Akali MLAs tried to stop the Finance Minister from presenting the Budget and he could not reach the Assembly at 11 am. “Their action led to adjournment of the House,” Mohindra said.
The motion was unanimously passed by the House and it was sent to the privileges committee.
In a statement issued later in the day, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal castigated the Congress government for moving a privilege motion against SAD legislators who, he said, had accompanied the farm suicide victim families to the Finance Minister’s residence.
He said the legislators were only assisting the victim families and had taken on a just public cause. “Such actions cannot thwart the SAD from fighting against injustice,” he said, adding the party had a long history of fighting for the rights of the poor, repressed and minorities.
He also attacked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for supporting the privilege motion, saying it proved that it was not only the B-team of the Congress but virtually part and parcel of Congress.
The former CM said instead of repressing people to still their voice, the Congress government should fulfill the promises made to them including implementing a complete farm loan waiver, giving promised relief to farm suicide victim families, ensuring ‘ghar ghar naukari’ and increasing social welfare benefits.
Majithia hits out
Akali legislator and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia said it happened for the “first time in history” that opposition was “in jail” when the Budget was presented. He termed the Budget as “fraud”.
Addressing a press conference, Majithia said, “The finance minister enacted a drama of reaching late for the Assembly as the Chandigarh Police had lifted victim families and legislators from the spot at 10.45 am. He could have even walked to the Vidhan Sabha in 15 minutes but he deliberately reached late as part of a well planned conspiracy to get a privilege motion initiated against SAD-BJP legislators. We are not scared by such tactics and will continue to gherao him till the Congress government fulfills its promise to waive of all loans of suicide victim families besides disbursing Rs 10 lakh compensation and a government job to one family member”.
Stating that “nearly 3,000 farm suicide victim families were suffering due to the Congress government’s refusal to honour the promises” made to them even in its fourth budget, Majithia said it was very unfortunate that AAP had not only supported the privilege motion against SAD-BJP legislators also did not speak a single word against the budget in the Vidhan Sabha”.
“This proves that AAP has become an extension of the Congress party and should take on the nomenclature of Chhoti Congress”, he added.