The bonhomie that marked Day 1 of the first day of the 15th Vidhan Sabha gave way to rancour as the session came to an end on Wednesday.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators, who had staged a walkout on the second day of the session, once again protested and stormed the well of the House and raised slogans against the speaker in the last 10 minutes of the session.
It was in stark contrast with the scenes in the assembly on the first day that witnessed warm hugs and handshakes.
Speaker Rana Kunwarpal Singh tried his best to be a tough monitor and handle the MLAs who were pointing fingers and deriding each other amid barely masked hostility on both sides of the benches.
The AAP made an issue of their allies, the Lok Insaaf Party’s Bains brothers — Simarjeet and Balwinder — not getting seats next to them in the House. The two have been allotted seats away from AAP MLAs, but have been sitting with them during this session. The speaker barred them from speaking in the House till they sat on their designated seats, resulting in leader of opposition HS Phoolka and AAP chief whip Sukhpal Khaira lodging protest. The treasury benches too reciprocated in kind.
Pleading with them to allow the two to sit next to them, Khaira said: “Why are you scared of them? It will only help us prepare our floor strategy better and discuss issues yaar. It has taken you barely a week to become like Akalis. Look at what has happened to them,” he said, pointing to the low number of Akali MLAs in the House. His imploring left the Congressmen speechless till Amrinder Singh Raja Warring was heard saying: “Speaker saab even I want to sit next to the CM; I want to hold some discussions with him!”
Phoolka, Khaira not on same page
While Phoolka did not seem to want to blow the issue out of proportion, Khaira wanted the AAP MLAs to protest against the speaker. He huddled them together asking them to leave their seats and walk into the well of the House, where they sat for the last 10 minutes of the session, raising slogans.
The dissonance between Phoolka and Khaira had also surfaced on the issue of government bringing out a ‘white paper’ on the state finances. “It should be timebound and include the deeds of governments of the past 20 years,” said Phoolka. “It should be from the time Punjab was a revenue surplus state in 1985,” said Khaira, forcing Phoolka to later clarify that a white paper on the last 20 years was acceptable.
Later, addressing a press conference, Khaira said the speaker was “partisan” and had brazenly favoured the Congress.
Akalis fail to impress
Finance minister Manpreet Badal, at his polished best, could hardly contain his disgust for his mother party — the Shiromani Akali Dal — as he launched a rather verbose attack on them. The assault was direct, as he spoke facing the Akali MLAs even as he addressed the speaker. In response, Akali MLAs led by Bikram Majithia got up raising their voice, forcing the speaker to give time to former finance minister Parminder Dhindsa to speak. Dhindsa could not make much of the opportunity with the treasury benches almost booing him in unison. “Jinohne loota hai karwan ko, woh kahan hain (But where are those who have looted the caravan)?” Congress legislator Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa was heard saying, pointing to the empty seats of the former chief minister and deputy chief minister.