Chandigarh, September 12: In a first such protest in Punjab, the Opposition Congress MLAs started night long dharna in the Assembly Hall after the proceedings was unceremoniously adjourned for the day by Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal after putting no-confidence motion to vote amidst pandemonium. The Congress was at its aggressive best as the treasury benches donned the role of the opposition creating disruptions. At the time of the writing of this column, the dharna was continuing.
Electricity supply and air-conditioning to the Assembly hall where the dharna is continuing have been switched off.
The Punjab Assembly today presented an altogether different scenario as discussion started on the no-confidence motion moved by Leader of the Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi against the Akali Dal-BJP government in the state headed by Parkash Singh Badal in his fifth term. The fate of such motions is too well known as the objective is to attack the government. The motion was put to vote amidst pandemonium as the treasury benches disrupted Channi from the very first sentence that he uttered. The news is not that the motion fell during voice vote. It is the Badal government that lost some of the moral ground.
The House proceedings started amidst slogan shouting by Independent MLA brothers Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains who were again pressing for the admission of their non-official resolution on seeking royalty on river waters being supplied to Rajasthan. All attempts by Speaker Atwal to read out the rule book to them had no effect as they finally sat on dharna in the well of the House.
As the moved to the Well, they were joined by Akali Dal MLA under suspension Pargat Singh. In view of the no-confidence motion, the party had issued whip and as Chief Whip Dr daljeet Singh Cheema pointed out, it applied to Pargat too. He did not sit on the treasury benches. He is among those who have floated Awaz-e-Punjab front.
The ruckus started as the Speaker allocated time for no-confidence motion to which the Congress strongly objected saying it was too little. After about 15 minutes, the Speaker agreed to allot three hours with provision to extend it in case so needed.
Channi, it seemed, had come fully prepared to blast the government. He was disrupted by the treasury benches as he uttered the very first sentence accusing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal of monopolizing every business in the state. He used the word robbers for them.
Sukhbir was seen signaling his party men who did not allow Channi to proceed further. In between, the Congress objected as Akali Dal MLA Iqbal Singh Jhoonda took over the House as the presiding officer while supporting party badge. The Congress strongly turned aggressive on the issue on the logic that the presiding officer was supposed to be a neutral person under norms of parliamentary democracy. He did not budge.
The Congress MLAs moved into the Well of the House and Amarinder Singh Raja Warring was seen forcing his way by his way through watch and ward staff to reach Speaker’s podium. Some other MLAs too joined him. They were pushed back.
Calm was restored as Speaker Atwal returned and called upon Channi to start his speech.
The Congress was at its aggressive best today to hog the headlines and succeeded in that. Channi today had total support of the party and he had come fully prepared to tear into the functioning of the government.
His very first sentence was an indication of the bitter attack that he was about to launch against Badals. Several ministers and MLAs were on their feet demanding apology from Channi for using the word robbers against Badals before allowing him to proceed. This led to the stalemate. The ruling party seemed to be performing the role of the opposition.
Atwal finally put the motion to voice vote as the pandemonium continued and both sides tried to shout down each other.
It is pertinent to mention that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had last week called Channi to Delhi to discuss programme for the session. State Congress chief Capt. Amarinder Singh had himself presided over the meeting of the Congress Legislature Party to chalk out the strategy. The party succeeded in conveying the message. The Akali Dal was aggressively defensive.
At another level, the proceedings were mockery of the democratic functioning. Channi had referred to goondaism by Akalis in his second sentence while also quoting Gurbani. The point had been well conveyed with the treasury benches not allowing the discussion on no-confidence motion to proceed.
It seemed that in this last session of this House, the Congress was trying to make up for its non-functioning during these ten years, such was the aggressiveness.
As the Speaker adjourned the House for the day after putting the motion to vote, the Congress MLAs took over the House and started mock session with Ashwani Sekhri in Speaker’s chair.