The last session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha ended on Septermebr 14 with an unprecedented ugliness and put all democratic norms to shame.
The speaker of the Vidhan Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal cannot be absolved of the responsibility and infact, he is the main culprit for what has happened during the last three days of the five day session.
The Congress Legislature Party which is the main opposition party in the Vidhan Sabha moved a no confidence motion against the SAD-BJP alliance and the same was admitted by the speaker. It was supposed to be discussed and debated in the house. But the debate was not allowed in the ruckus and the SAD-BJP alliance misused its majority in the house and rejected the same with a voice vote. The no confidence move was defeated with the tacit understanding of the speaker otherwise it could be put to debate for two days.
There was no doubt that the no confidence motion would fall but the SAD-BJP alliance did not want the debate because the Congress had prepared for that and the performance of the government was to be attacked on the issues of deteriorating law and order drug menace and activities of gangsters and sand mafia.
As the debate started and leader of the opposition Charanjit Singh Channi started making attacks on the government, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal signaled to the members of the treasury benches to create ruckus in the house, during the melee, the speaker put the motion to vote and it was rejected with a voice vote. The opposition was left in the lurch by the speaker. This was not the first time that Sukhbir had acted in such a manner. As a matter of fact, in the past too, he alongwith Bikram Singh Majithia had been doing in the previous sessions… and the opposition was denied the opportunity to express its views against the government. This was an authoritarian attitude of the ruling alliance and was deplorable.
Following the rejection of the no confidence motion, the Congress legislators lodged strong protest and resorted to sit in the Vidhan Sabha hall. There were 27 Congress legislators who stayed in the assembly hall including four lady legislators who left later. The other senior Congress legislators sat on dharna outside the assembly hall. It was most unfortunate that the Vidhan Sabha secretariat switched off the electricity supply to the assembly hall and also switched off the air conditioners. Not only this when Mrs. Ambika Soni, member of the Rajya Sabha sent breakfast for the protesting legislators, it was not allowed. This was inhuman behaviour of the secretariat staff. Meanwhile the speaker came to Ludhiana to escape any responsibility.
The Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as usual went to meet the protesting Congress legislators to persuade them to give up their dharna inside the house. It was not for the first time that Chief Minister had taken such a step. Captain Amarinder Singh has described the gesture of Chief Minister as shedding crocodile tears. No one can match the Chief Minister in such acts.
On the last day of the session, when it resumed its sitting, the Congress legislators insisted on having debate on the no confidence and the speaker rejected the demand as he said since the no confidence motion had already been rejected. He rather allowed the treasury benches to pass 21 bills without any discussion in 20 minutes. The passage of 20 bills showed as the Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana had finished its agenda in 15 minutes. The Municipal Corporation Ludhiana has a record that whenever, its general house meets, its agenda is finished in 15-20 minutes and no discussion is allowed by the mayor.
This writer has been covering the processings of the Vidhan Sabha for three years from 1965 to 1967 when Comrade Ramkishan was the Chief Minister and never witnessed such scenes where the democratic norms were put to shame. I remember there used to be legislators from Karnala Ram Piara and another legislator from Hisar Mani Ram Bagri, they were earlier opposed to Partap Singh Kairon and continued their opposition to the Congress after the death of Kairon as well. They never created any untoward scene in the house, they would raise an issue and if the speaker did not allow them, they would simply walk out of the house and the proceedings would continue smoothly. There was never any fish market scene in the house.
After the reorganization of the Punjab and creation of Punjabi suba, Lachhman SinghGill overthrew the government of Justice Gurnam Singh and Joginder Singh Mann was elected speaker of the house. Only once there was ruckus in the Vidhan Sabha on the opening day when Gill came to house as Chief Minister of Punjab.
Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal has expressed his concern over the developments which took place in the house and has described the same as the darkest period of his political career. Who is responsible for this type of happenings in the Vidhan Sabha?
Atwal has claimed that he is an Akali and it was his job to get the bills passed. This itself proves his partial attitude as a speaker and he was never a neutral person. Speaker is supposed to be neutral and listen to all the political groups in the Vidhan Sabha or the Lok Sabha. He served as deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha too courtesy Parkash Singh Badal.
The role of the speaker in the entire proceedings of session has been criticized by Bir Devinder Singh former Deputy speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha who has alleged that the speaker failed to maintain the dignity of the house and could not be absolved of the responsibility of creating chaos in the house.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist.
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