The Akali-BJP government defeated the no-confidence motion moved by the opposition Congress in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday, even as Akali chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Virsa Singh Valtoha’s once-active ‘terror links’ left the Parkash Singh Badal regime red-faced.
The Congress moved the no-confidence motion in the wake of the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED’s) summons to cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia in the multi-crore Bhola drug racket. The Congress’ gambit was to pin down the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on the drug racket and also corner the coalition partner, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for its forked stand after state BJP president Kamal Sharma had on Sunday demanded Majithia’s resignation.
But, much to the glee of the Opposition benches, the SAD found itself in a hugely embarrassing situation when Valtoha openly referred to his past terror links while launching a counter-offensive against the no-confidence motion. This admission by the CPS, who had remained in prison after Operation Bluestar, pushed to the backburner the core issue of drugs and the debate on the motion.
The Congress grabbed this ‘terror link admission’ and stalled proceedings of the two sittings of the House. For the transaction of House business, two sessions --morning and evening --were scheduled. However, after the question hour of the morning sitting, followed by Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar’s assault on Majithia after moving the no-confidence motion, the opposition remained in the well of the House seeking action against the CPS.
Despite forcing three adjournments of more than two hours and apologies tendered not only by the CPS but also chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, besides repeated requests by speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, the Congress camp wasn’t satisfied and resorted to anti-government sloganeering.
As the Congress neither allowed the House to function nor let Badal respond to the no-confidence motion, the speaker put the motion to voice vote amid the din. Having simple majority, the government won.
And this melee continued in the second sitting of the House as the Congress members didn’t come to their benches and instead held a sit-in in the well of the House, forcing the speaker to hurriedly finish the second sitting’s business in less than an hour.
Before this, the Congress had set the tone for its offensive when it began cornering the government during the question hour.
Earlier, when the no-confidence motion was adopted, Badal said: “This no-confidence against my cabinet is a serious matter. As long as the House does not repose confidence, it’s not good for me to sit in the House. Let the House discuss this motion before taking up any other business matter of the day.”
Then began what would have been a two-hour-long debate which was cut short due to the Congress’ offensive and the ruckus.
The treasury benches let Jakhar finish his nearly 36-minute-long speech without disruption during which he launched the sharpest-ever attack against Majithia, equating him with former Union minister A Raja who had to go behind bars (in the 2G spectrum scam).
Jakhar said Majithia was in trouble because of his “doings and undoings; his association” and that the minister was “a victim of his own growing popularity.”
Taking the BJP head-on for its flip-flops on Majithia’s resignation, the CLP leader sought the minister’s resignation and demanded an independent probe into the drug racket under the supervision of a sitting judge.
“The very timing of the summons to Majithia is fraught with suspicion...” Jakhar said, asking the BJP to clear its stand on the drug issue. “You cannot have double standards... Either put up or shut up. The BJP has betrayed the people and its scale is unimaginable,” he told the BJP.
As the Congress didn’t allow the CM to speak in the House, Badal had to hold a press conference to air his views. “I do not agree with what the MLA said (admission of terror links). The MLA tendered an apology and withdrew his remarks. The Congress policy is to disrupt proceedings as and when I am slated to address the House,” Badal said.