Left with just three MLAs for advice and taking on the government, state CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi on Friday walked into a shrewdly laid trap of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in the Vidhan Sabha.
Sukhbir’s asking Channi to tell the House at least one significant achievement of the previous Congress government left the state CLP leader in disarray and the Congress embarrassed. It unfolded after Channi’s aggressive reply to the debate on the budget that finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa had presented on March 15. Less than 10 Congress MLAs were there to hear Channi. Before Channi, Sukhbir had delivered his speech riddled with the usual statistical jugglery to paint a rosy picture of the financial situation, which he claimed was better than the Centre’s economic health. When he finished, Channi stormed out of the House along with three MLAs, saying the party would boycott the speech of the finance minister.
At this moment, around 4.21pm, the deputy CM pulled an ace, daring the CLP leader to answer a few queries. Channi, who had almost gone past the last Congress desk, came back with Kuljit Singh Nagra, Gurkirat Singh, and Navtej Singh to accept the challenge. The deputy CM asked the state CLP leader to name one significant project that Captain Amarinder Singh government had launched in its last term. Channi’s spontaneous reply was: “Bhakra Dam,” and then he listed the other achievements of the Partap Singh Kairon government of 1956-64. “What’s one project, I can name a hundred,” said a confident Channi.
Sukhbir, now on his feet, asked Channi to be serious and tell him what the Amarinder government had done. “Patchwork on all the roads of Punjab… we lifted paddy,” roared Channi, and the treasury benches broke into a guffaw, while the three Congress legislators rushed to the rescue of their stranded leader.
As Channi wanted to take more questions, Sukhbir threw him another bouncer: “Any welfare scheme launched by Amarinder?” Channi said: “MNREGA, RTI, atta-dal, we started… scholarships for poor… Shagun scheme…” The show went on for quite a while, as Sukhbir demanded answers. Finally, Channi stumbled on an escape route when he asked the acting chairman Manoranjan Kalia (as speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal had taken a break) for a four-hour debate on the issue of the Congress achievements. “No problem,” said Sukhbir, “but name one factory set up during the Congress tenure.”
The rapid-fire quiz did not stop here. Sukhbir next asked Channi: “What is working capital limit?” Channi answered dutifully: “I am a graduate in economics.” Finding the Congress legislators in the claws of Sukhbir, Nagra took the “give us your questions in writing” escape route, while Navtej was giving constant inputs to Channi, who decided finally to walk out of the House. But the damage had been done.