Abrupt end to monsoon session, HP assembly adjourned sine die

Amid the continued deadlock over the opposition BJP's demand for a discussion on the proposed money laundering case against chief minister Virbhadra Singh, the monsoon session of Himachal Vidhan Sabha came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, with speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail adjourning the assembly sine die after a voice vote.

The session, which had commenced on August 6, was scheduled to conclude on August 29.

On the resolution moved by parliamentary affairs minister Mukesh Agnihotri, Butail adjourned the House sine die, as the assembly witnessed acrimonious scenes for the fifth consecutive day. 

In fact, the proposal to adjourn the assembly sine die was made by the chief minister himself, whom the BJP had decided to boycott in the House, by refraining to ask him any questions and even leaving the House whenever he rose to give reply to any question.

Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal objected to Virbhadra Singh's remarks against him made in the assembly on Monday. Virbhadra had accused Dhumal of allotting government land worth crores of rupees to Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), headed by his MP son Anurag Thakur.

Referring to the BJP's demand for discussion over the money laundering case against him, Virbhadra had said that the issue being raised by the Opposition is subjudice and cannot be raised in the House. The CM asserted that the ruling party could also raise the issue of cases being faced Dhumal and his son in a Dharmsala court. He said that since the Congress wants the House to function smoothly, it desisted from resorting to such tactics.
Reacting to Virbhadra's remarks, Dhumal on Tuesday said that the House should debate cases against both the BJP and the Congress leaders, including those against the chief minister. Dhumal criticised Virbhadra for being intolerant towards his own criticism while he castigated the BJP leaders.

The chief minister however reiterated that the matter being raised by the BJP was subjudice and cannot be discussed in the House. He then urged the speaker to adjourn the assembly sine die.

Earlier in the morning, the speaker had convened a meeting of both the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP to end the impasse in the House and consequently, the initial part of the question hour went off smoothly.

However, pandemonium began in house when power and agriculture Minister Sujan Singh Pathania chose not to reply a question on allotment of shops posed by Vinod Kumar, BJP legislator from Nachan. Opposition MLAs objected to Pathania's silence even as the speaker called his name thrice.
The House witnessed uproarious scenes when the chief minister Virbhadra Singh got up to reply on behalf of Pathania who had left house, even as Butail tried to restore order in house.
Butail tried to pacify members saying that he cannot either force any member to ask questions nor can he compel a minister to reply. He said there was nothing wrong in the chief minister replying to the questions.

The situation aggravated further when rural development minister Anil Sharma too walked away from the House, when Jaswan MLA Bikram Singh asked a question.

The BJP members criticised the ruling party for its lack of interest in smooth conduct of the House.
Meanwhile, parliamentary affairs minister Mukesh Agnihotri said that since the opposition members were not asking questions from Virbhadra Singh, it was for the speaker to use his discretion to take up the next question.

However, Dhumal maintained that the chief minister could only reply on behalf of a minister if he is absent from the assembly. “We have seen and heard legislators walking out of the House but it was strange on the part of the minister to walk out from the assembly even as he was asked thrice by the chair to reply to the question that figured against his name”.

Virbhadra Singh, while replying to a question on road accidents, said that he was aware that the opposition members had decided not to ask questions from him.

Dhumal then reminded the Congress that they had also boycotted then Health Minister Rajiv Bindal, when the BJP was in power in the state. 

Soon after the question hour, reports of various committees were laid on the table of the House. 
Meanwhile, Rajiv Bindal (BJP) moved a motion under rule 62 to draw attention of the House towards the damage caused by rains. Since revenue minister Kaul Singh was not present in House, the chief minister replied on his behalf.  The opposition left the House in protest.

Slamming the opposition, Virbhadra said, “Prem Kumar Dhumal was using the party as fodder to meet his own ends” .

He then urged the Speaker again to adjourn the assembly sine die. However, the opposition members entered the House again at that moment.

Parliamentary affairs minister Agnihotri moved a resolution to adjourn the assembly sine die. Speaker Butail  said that he would study the rules and decide.

In the post-lunch session, Butail adjourned the House sine die under rule-20, even as the opposition members vociferously protested against the move.



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