Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal on Monday rejected the adjournment motion that state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Kumar Jakhar had moved to seek a House debate on the plight of farmers. Instead, the speaker allowed a motion that parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal had brought on the same issue.
The speaker said he had decided to allow two-hour debate on the Mittal's motion since it was moved first, on September 18. "I had no option but to reject the adjournment motion that the Congress had moved on September 21. I have decided to allow a two-hour discussion on the issue on Wednesday, giving the treasury and the opposition benches an hour each," Atwal told the House.
Jakhar contended that once the adjournment motion was moved, the House proceedings should come to a standstill, since the matter becomes most urgent. The speaker did not oblige him. Seeing the argument between the two, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal got up and pointed towards the Congress benches, saying: "Former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh issued a statement that no one in the Congress took Punjab seriously; so be serious on these issues." All of a sudden, Kuljit Singh Nagra and other Congress legislators got up to tell Sukhbir not to mock at the farmers' plight.
State revenue minister Birkam Singh Majithia came to Sukhbir's rescue, saying the deputy CM was only reading out Amarinder's statement. It started a verbal dual between Majithia and Nagra, in which each tried to run the other down. Jakhar said it was unfortunate that when farmers of Punjab were being ruined, the House had permitted only an hour of discussion on the issue. The speaker, who was watching Jakhar, asked him if and the other Congress legislators were even prepared for a debate. Jakhar said they were, with all relevant documents "that would be an eye-opener for the government".
Sukhbir got up to remind the House that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was not present, had always championed the cause of farmers and remained committed to their welfare. "Therefore, Jakhar and the other Congress leaders should not politicise the issue. I would request the speaker to even give my allotted time to Jakhar to let him speak," said the deputy CM. Majithia said the Congress sought more time for the debate to help many groups within draw the attention of their separate leaders, including Amarinder and Partap Singh Bajwa.
Later, speaking outside the Vidhan Sabha, Jakhar said after their adjournment motion was turned down, the Congress legislators did not want to create ruckus in the house but were keen to persuade the ruling alliance to debate. "Cotton growers are ruined because the state government failed to check the whitefly attack on their crop. The purchase of inferior pesticides for an exorbitant price caused this irreparable loss. On Wednesday, we will expose the government on the issue," said Jakhar, adding "the latter should get a reality check done".