After a war of wits during the budget session, it’s time for a WhatsApp war between the ruling and opposition MLAs in Punjab. From inside the assembly, a video of Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi answering questions posed by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, and another one of Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring repeatedly saying sorry to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha, have gone viral on the messaging app, despite no television channels being allowed to cover the House proceedings.
An embarrassed Congress is claiming that the clips are tampered with, and also accusing the speaker, Charanjit Singh Atwal, of being behind the shoot-and-leak. “The speaker has leaked the videos in connivance with the government. They have been tampered with in a studio,” Channi says, adding, “Our supporters are also now circulating videos on what we said in the assembly.” He expressed ignorance as to how the videos were recorded and by whom.
In the first video, Sukhbir is seen trumpeting his government’s achievements and prompting Channi to list any significant project that the previous Congress government (2002-07) under Captain Amarinder Singh had started, to which Channi replies, “Bhakra Dam.” Sukhbir then pointedly asks Channi to tell him what the Amarinder government had done. To this, Channi says, “Patchwork on all roads of Punjab,” and so it goes on.
In the Warring video, Valtoha, who has courted many a controversy during the sessions and outside, is seen taking a moral high ground and demanding an apology to a remark by Warring. And the Gidderbaha MLA is shown repeating, “Main maafi mangda haan (I seek your forgiveness)” several times.
Punjab assembly secretary Shashi Mishra, on her part, denies any leak, saying the assembly’s system is “foolproof”. “The leaked videos could have been made on mobile phones,” she said. “Officially, the proceedings are recorded on a hard disc and not individual CDs, and it is sealed the same day. It is not possible to make video clips out of that.”
Earlier, two private channels, including Badal-owned PTC, were allowed to cover the proceedings. But after expletives hurled by Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia went viral on YouTube, the other channel, Day and Night News, was denied the rights; later the speaker had to debar PTC too as the opposition alleged “selective and biased” telecast.