"Shame, shame, shame…," the voices got shriller and caught the attention of everyone in the rear lounge of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
The stage set, Congress MLAs started a parallel "assembly session" on Friday afternoon, raising slogans against the ruling SAD-BJP.
Seated in a chair placed on a big table, Jagmohan Singh Kang was the "speaker" of the House and Rana Gurjit Singh the secretary. Incidentally, during Wednesday's pandemonium in the House, it was Kang who had occupied the speaker's chair.
Ajitinder Singh Mofar stood at ease beside the speaker as his personal security officer. A few dozen chairs pulled out from the Congress office and arranged close to the speaker were segregated to form the treasury and opposition benches.
Sitting on them were about 40 MLAs who mocked at the ruling coalition and raised slogans against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. "No, no …this is not allowed here. House di maryada rakho (maintain decorum of the House)," intervened the speaker, inviting peals of laughter.
As the mock session was underway, an LCD screen in the Congress office showed the SAD's Malerkotla MLA, Farzana Nisara Khatoon, speaking during a discussion on the governor's address, voicing concern over the plight of poor Muslims in Punjab and demanding better treatment to them from the government.
As the Congress was busy holding the mock session, the opposition benches inside the House remained vacant. Even on the treasury benches, there were few interested listeners. In contrast, those attending the mock session were charged up, quite responsive to each other's remarks.
Former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Kewal Singh Dhillon, OP Soni and Sukh Sarkaria, however, missed the action.
As the news of the mock session spread, the Vidhan Sabha secretary came rushing to Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar and asked him to call it off. But Jakhar refused. "We will hold this parallel session till March 26. This is our protest against the suspension of nine Congress MLAs. We will continue with it till the decision is revoked," he told the secretary.
The "assembly session" went on. Members of the "opposition benches"-Charanjeet Singh Channi, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Lal Singh and Balbir Singh Sidhu-got up one by one and condemned Wednesday's incident. They alleged that they fell into the trap of the ruling coalition.
The conclusion of every speech was met with a roaring applause from all MLAs, including Kang and Rana Gurjit.
It was now time to move some resolutions. Ashwani Sekhri proposed that the Congress would continue to work for the dignity of the poor and Dalits. "Yes or no?" the speaker asked the members, and everyone replied in a loud "yes".
Karan Kaur Brar stood up to point out that the ruling coalition had created such a situation to divert people's attention from issues concerning the state.
"It has really been a bad experience for me as a member of the Vidhan Sabha. I can't face the people of my constituency," said first-time Hoshiarpur MLA Sham Sunder Arora, referring to Wednesday's incident. "Speaker sahib, the civil hospital in Hoshiarpur has no specialist woman gynaecologist. I am forced to raise this issue in this forum, where the grievance will at least be heard," he said. As Arora concluded his speech, all the Congress MLAs applauded.
In the end, Kuljit Singh Nagra spoke about the SAD's "highhandedness".
"Session is adjourned till March 18, 2 pm," announced Kang, and everyone dispersed.
"Opposition bahar hai, andar sarkar apna dhol kut rai ai. Punjab vastey ae changee gal nahee (The opposition is outside and the government is beating its own drum inside the House. This is not good for Punjab)," said an onlooker.