Major faultlines within the BJP surfaced in the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday over the property tax amendment Bills moved by local bodies minister Anil Joshi.
Even as the opposition Congress was not present in the House when a slew of Bills were being passed, the SAD-BJP legislators hit out at their government saying the Bills were not drafted with clinical precision and lacked application of mind. They rued the fact that the Bills were being supplied to the legislators on the day of discussion instead of being given a day in advance, giving little time to study these Bills.
Due to this tactical delay in giving Bills, the amendments, if any, legislators proposed were not accepted by the speaker, who directed the government to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, after BJP minister Joshi moved the Punjab Municipal Corporation (second amendment) Bill-2014 for discussion, former BJP minister Manoranjan Kalia, who held the local bodies portfolio in the previous government, pointed out that this Bill did not define the “tenants in perpetuity”, a term mentioned in the Bill. This took Joshi by surprise.
The Bill says, “Provided that in the case of land or building occupied by tenants in perpetuity, the tax shall be payable by such tenants.”
The contention of Kalia was that the tax is paid by the owner and not by the tenants. Hence, it was imperative to define the term “tenants in perpetuity”.
Unable to give a convincing reply, Joshi said the BJP legislator was pressing for the definition of “tenants in perpetuity” due to some ulterior motive.
At this, parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal (BJP) made a desperate attempt to rescue Joshi by finding fault with the contention of Kalia, who ambushed Mittal saying, “You are a lawyer. Is it correct what you are saying?”
As Mittal failed to counter Kalia, another BJP MLA Som Parkash was on his feet and defended the Bill moved by Joshi.
But Kalia had the last laugh when SAD MLA justice Nirmal Singh (retd)—a former high court judge--also endorsed the contentions of the former. During this verbal skirmish, speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal sided with Kalia. Finally, the bureaucracy came to Joshi’s rescue.