Twenty-seven Congress MLAs refused to heed Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s appeal after spending Monday night inside the assembly, sleeping on the floor and seats of the House, where they lost a trust vote against the government.
The Congress MLAs refused to leave the assembly building on Monday evening when the House was adjourned, demanding a fresh debate on the no-confidence motion against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance.
The MLAs have been on an indefinite sit-in on the floor of the Punjab assembly since Monday evening, demanding that the debate on a no-confidence motion moved by them be resumed because they did not get the opportunity to speak. Even after the day’s session was declared over, they refused to leave the House – instead opting to spend Monday night on the floor of the well.
Chaos broke out during the last session of the five-year-old Akali-BJP government when the Congress objected to an Akali legislator officiating as the speaker while wearing a ‘proud to be Akali’ badge on his shirt. A Congress-piloted no-confidence motion was put to voice vote, but defeated. Though speaker Charanjit Atwal then adjourned the House, the Congress MLAs – mostly youngsters – decided to stay behind.
In an unprecedented stand-off, they ordered food from outside, live-streamed their protests on Facebook and spent the night in the assembly. Assembly secretariat staffers switched off the air-conditioners and lights, but were forced to restore air-conditioning after the agitating legislators threatened to damage House property.
Senior leaders Captain Amarinder Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Lal Singh were not allowed to enter the Vidhan Sabha complex.
What does this mean?
This is the last session of the assembly before Punjab goes to the polls early next year. Both the ruling Akali Dal and the opposition Congress are aggressively trying to score brownie points in the battle of perceptions.
What comes next?
The Congress hopes the dharna will force the speaker to resume the debate, but Atwal continues to maintain that the motion was put to vote and defeated. Even as the stand-off continued, senior leaders held a dharna outside. Tuesday was a holiday for Eid, and the House will meet again on Wednesday. The treasury benches may move a privilege motion against the protesting Congress MLAs then.
Though Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal met the agitating Congress MLAs at the Vidhan Sabha, they refused to budge from their position.