Ever heard of a state government taking refuge behind the might of stray dogs? That's what happened in the Punjab assembly on Thursday when the Parkash Singh Badal government used the issue of the stray dog menace prevailing in the state to get out of a tricky situation created by the Opposition Congress.
The anxious Congress leaders wanted to move a resolution that the assembly recommend to the government to envisage a policy of giving Rs 1 crore to each MLA as a discretionary grant on the lines of the MPLAD fund for work in their constituencies. Ashwani Sekhri and Jagmohan Kang of the Congress moved the resolution. But before it could come up, Congress's Ajit Inder Singh Mofar was to move another resolution that the assembly recommend to the government to take effective steps to control the stray dog population. MLAs Kewal Singh Dhillon, SR Kaler, Randeep Singh Nabha, Hardyal Singh Kamboj, Kuljeet Nagra and Tarlochan Singh had also given notices to move the resolution about the stray dog menace. Cutting across party lines, MLAs expressed concern over the stray dog terror.
As the mood of the ruling SAD-BJP combine MLAs was positive, the restless Congress leaders insisted that instead of wasting time on debating on the issue, the House adopt the dogs resolution and move to the 'Rs 1-crore grant' resolution. But the ruling alliance MLAs wanted to prolong the debate in order to avoid the grant issue. Chiding the Congress members for their urgency, revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia said, "Listen to what the MLAs have to say on such a vital issue. Even I am scared of taking my pet dog out for a walk, such is the fear of stray dogs."
The more the Congress members demanded to cut short the debate, the more stubborn the ruling alliance MLAs became, and one after the other, the SAD MLAs tried to make lengthy speeches on stray dogs and their terror. The government fielded SAD's time-tested trouble-shooter Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema to prolong the debate and he carried on till 2.30pm, the time to adjourn the House till Friday.
Despite frequent disruptions by the Congress, Dr Cheema took the matter to the global level: "How can this House pass a resolution on dog bites without proper debat? A national-level strategy is needed to tackle it, while the next resolution (Rs 1-crore grant) is just aimed at making MLAs important."
Mofar, who had moved the resolution, lost his patience and urged the House to adopt it fast. While speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal advised Mofar to be patient, Dr Cheema quipped: "Mofarji, look how much effort I have been putting in on your resolution to ensure it is passed after a healthy debate." Finally, the government did not let the House adopt the resolution on dog bites; besides, it also scuttled a discussion on grants for MLAs, leaving some of the Congress MLAs, especially Charanjeet Singh Channi, fuming and fretting.