Much before the six-day budget session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha begins on Tuesday, a confrontation between the opposition Congress and the Parkash Singh Badal government is building over the short spell of the session.
A battery of Congress leaders led by Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar on Monday called on speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal and decided to step up the heat by demanding to extend the duration of the session.
The grouse of the Congress is that the first two days will be consumed by “obituary references”— the custom of paying tributes to prominent people who had died after the last sitting of the Vidhan Sabha — and the budget estimates will be presented on Wednesday. Practically, there will be four sittings for transacting the business and debating the key issues.
In an apparent rebuff to the state government’s reluctance to have a lengthier session, Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal also appeared in agreement with Congress’ sentiments of having more sittings of the upcoming session.
“I am personally not in favour of short sessions,” Atwal told Hindustan Times. “The Budget session should be long enough so that issues of Punjab are discussed at length and each MLA gets opportunity to raise issues of his constituency.”
The business advisory committee having members from the ruling and the opposition will meet on Tuesday again in which the Congress is going to mount pressure for increasing the number of sittings or raising the length of each sitting.
“By holding this short session the government is running away from the debate. This is not only a futile exercise but also a mockery of the democracy. The government wants to fulfil the constitutional obligation and run away from the debate,” CLP leader Jakhar said following a meeting with the speaker, who didn’t give any assurance to the Congress.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP coalition government and the Congress legislators will face each other for the first time inside the Vidhan Sabha after the high-pitched Lok Sabha elections in which the drug menace in the border state and the alleged involvement of the ruling party bigwigs had captured the centrestage.
During their meeting with the speaker, Congress leaders Charanjit Singh Channi, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Kewal Singh Dhillon, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Randeep Singh Nabha and Parminder Singh Pinky presented a list of near two dozen issues, such as drug prevalence, power and drinking water scarcity, and the chronic shortage of sand and gravel, which the party wants to raise in the house.
But the speaker said: “Had the Congress given the list of issues it wants to raise earlier, I could have accommodated it. They also came late.”
The ruling SAD-BJP leaders are fully aware of the hot-button issues the Congress is yearning to corner the government on. “These issues can be taken up during the discussion on the Budget,” a SAD leader, who refused to be identified, said.