As Congress legislators put their lung power to test in the assembly on Tuesday, shouting virtually non-stop through the day, the Akalis learnt vital lessons in holding their tongue.
Unsavoury slips of tongue by revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Virsa Singh Valtoha turned a bad day for the Akalis into a nightmare. Valtoha, a former radical, “admitted” that he is a terrorist and Majithia ended up distorting a verse of Guru Gobind Singh, yet again.
And though both apologised for the slip-ups, Majithia is likely to get into trouble for the distortion; Valtoha’s admission has given the Congress a new agenda: narco-terrorism.
The second day of the three-day session began ominously enough. The treasury benches, ready for the Congress attack over the drug issue, however, faced onslaught from unexpected quarters: the visitor’s gallery. Former Congress MLAs Inderjit Singh Zira and Baldev Singh Rajla had managed to carry black flags and posters into the visitor’s gallery which they hurled into the hall demanding relief for Punjab farmers. They raised slogans against the NDA government. The two were shunted out and detained in the assembly till the evening.
Once the opposition had moved the no-confidence motion and the Leader of the Opposition had spoken, Valtoha, putting forth Majithia’s defence, said a politician’s pictures with someone who is later found to be a criminal did not mean the politician was also involved in the crime. He showed pictures of Congress MLA from Gidderbaha Amrinder Singh Raja Warring with someone who was involved in the drug trade.
Warring reacted saying Valtoha might have several such pictures with former terrorists. At this, Valtoha retorted, “Haan main attvaadi haan. Main aap kehna (Yes I am a terrorist, I say it myself).”
The Opposition jumped at the admission, objecting. Sukhjinder Randhawa and Ashwani Sekhri were in the well of the house in no time asking the home minister (Sukhbir Badal) to take note of the admission.
Valtoha tried to salvage the situation saying, “Inha dee sarkaar ne mainu aatvaadi banaya. Mere te jhoote mukadme kitte. Hun main bury ho gayan haan (it is their government which made me a terrorist. They implicated me in false cases. Now I have been acquitted).
But the damage was done and by this time the entire Congress was in the well of the House raising slogans against Valtoha. Valtoha tried another stance. “In those days, everyone who worked in favour of the public was called a terrorist,” he said.
In something that is not seen often in the assembly, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the deputy chief minister even left their seats and walked up to the Congressmen in the well to reason with them but the request seemed to have failed. Valtoha was then asked to apologise. He took back his words but that did not assuage the opposition.
Valtoha’s admission gave the assembly its background din for the rest of the day. Congressmen did not leave the well and relentlessly raised slogans and shouted. When all words seemed to have been used, they clapped and let out a loud monotonous drone.
Undeterred, Majithia defended himself trying his best to be heard above the din (with some help from the microphone at his seat) only to land in yet another avoidable situation. He apologised for the “small change in words” later.
The CM, despite his age, also managed to get across his helplessness through raising his voice to be heard. Later, just before he started addressing a press conference, he said, “It is so peaceful in here.”
Conspicuous silence of the day
Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal remained conspicuously silent all through the day, not raising her voice at all. Even during the sloganeering by her party leaders, she stood on the fringes of the group.
Throaty issues of the day
Parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal had a bad throat and every time he spoke his voice would trail off and become inaudible after the first few words. The Congressmen, who shouted slogans almost throughout the day, however, seemed prepared. Rajnish Babbi was seen taking out elaichi (cardamom) from his pocket and distributing it to everyone to ease their sore throats.