Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal set a precedent in the House on Thursday by deciding to pay tributes to deceased parliamentarians, legislators and freedom fighters.
Atwal, who was the deputy speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09) during the first term of the Congress-led UPA government, said he wanted to bring a change in the House based on his experience in Parliament.
With only the speaker paying homage, the House proceedings lasted merely 18 minutes, including a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the departed.
"In the Lok Sabha, it is the speaker who pays tributes to those who died between the duration of the previous assembly session and the beginning of the new one. We should introduce it here in the assembly," Atwal told the House.
Traditionally, in the Punjab assembly, it was the leader of the House (chief minister) who would first pay tributes to departed leaders, followed by the leader of the Opposition and then the leader of the ruling party's alliance partner. Homage by at least three members used to consume considerable time of the House.
After introducing the new convention, Atwal paid tributes to a former member of Parliament, five former legislators, one former member of the legislative council, 16 freedom fighters and an Akali leader, besides famous Punjabi folk singer Kuldeep Manak.
The leaders whose names figured in the obituary references included former MP Chiranji Lal Sharma (father of Haryana Vidhan Sabha speaker Kuldeep Sharma), former Congress minister Santokh Singh Randhawa (father of sitting Congress MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa), former MLA Kanwarjit Singh Brar and Jodh Singh.
Immediately after the speaker finished paying tributes, leader of the Opposition Sunil Kumar Jakhar got up and said that names of Congress MLA Kewal Singh Dhillon's father Sajjan Singh Dhillon, who died on December 21 last year, and party MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu's father Jang Singh Sidhu, who passed away on February 8, should also be included in the list of obituary references.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal also stood up and wanted the House to take note of Manjit Kaur, former Akali minister Ranjit Singh Brahmpura's wife, who died recently. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Sharanjit Singh Dhillon wanted the speaker to include the name of Kapoor Singh, a freedom fighter. "Sir, you know this man and had also gone to attend his bhog ceremony," Dhillon told the speaker.
The speaker said obituary references should ideally be confined to MPs, MLAs, freedom fighters or someone whose contribution to society was immense. "If we start including the names of parents and children of elected representatives, the list would become too long," Atwal said. However, the speaker later paid tributes to all personalities mentioned by members of the House.
Early bird of the day
Congress MLA Jagmohan Singh Kang was the first legislator to arrive in the Vidhan Sabha, closely followed by BJP's Manoranjan Kalia and Amarjit Singh Sahi.
Absentees of the day
Congress MLAs Capt Amarinder Singh, Lal Singh, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Rana Gurjit Singh, Kuljit Singh Nagra and Arvind Khanna remained absent from the House on Thursday. Amarinder was conspicuous by his absence for the third day in a row.