Listing as many as 25 issues, the Congress has demanded a minimum of 10 sittings in the winter session of the Punjab assembly.
In a letter to Punjab assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar said, “There are so many burning issues in the state that need to be discussed immediately, so a session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha should be convened without any delay. The last session of the Vidhan Sabha was held in July 2014. As per constitutional provisions, the Vidhan Sabha should meet within six months of the date of its last sitting.”
The drugs issue tops the party’s list, which also includes urban development, delay in payment of paddy to farmers, unemployment, road accidents, financial health of the state, power situation, VAT on petroleum products, social security schemes and problem of stray animals.
The opposition also wants to debate on infrastructure problems in government schools, Adarsh schools and local issues concerning constituencies of respective MLAs.
Though the Congress strategy seems to be to highlight the government’s failure on many counts, it has in the past failed to pin the government down on any one issue.
While leading the opposition charge, Jakhar has repeatedly digressed from the main issue. But Jakhar says the long list is owing to both — the government’s failure to hold enough sittings to give them the time to debate issues and Punjab being plagued by far too many problems.
“All these issues are important. From farmers to urban areas, employees to uneducated youth, all are suffering hardships. MLAs also want to raise issues of their respective constituencies. What is the point of spending so much on the staff of the assembly if even the bare minimum sittings are not to be held,” he said.
But Atwal disagrees. He said the demand of the Congress would be considered, but the 40-sittings-a-year norm was not legally binding.
“All over the country, the sittings of the state assemblies are getting fewer. And the number of sittings is not decided by me or the government but by the business advisory committee of the house that meets on the first or second day after the session is convened. The committee has members of both the ruling and the opposition parties,” he said.
On the likely date for the session, he said the decision to convene the house is taken by the state cabinet and sent to the governor, who then summons the session.