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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Punjab assembly ruckus: Congress in Catch-22

Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, March 17, 2013
First Published: 23:19 IST(17/3/2013) | Last Updated: 15:38 IST(18/3/2013)

The opposition Congress is in a Catch-22 situation over participating further in the House discussion on the governor's address, as an apology to the speaker has been set as the pre-condition for the nine suspended MLAs to re-enter the Vidhan Sabha after Wednesday's pandemonium.

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Though leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar on Friday gave his green signal for a mock assembly inside the Vidhan Sabha complex outside the House, and the party resolved to carry on with the "parallel session" till the last day of the session on March 26, the boycott of the remaining sittings of the budget session would deprive the Congress of a legitimate opportunity to nail the Akali-BJP government on its various shortcomings.

Incidentally, the very purpose of the Congress's attempt to bring the Tarn Taran woman, who was thrashed by cops, to the state assembly was to highlight the state government's failure to contain the highhandedness of the police. The woman's entry to the complex had triggered a raid of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) office by cops that led to some Congress MLAs one of the policemen.

It led to the House pandemonium, during which not only did some Congress MLAs grab the speaker's chair but others, including some legislators from the ruling alliance, were seen giggling through the ruckus.

If inside the House, the 46-strong opposition party could also have raised other crucial issues such as the financial crunch, drug addiction, illegal sand mining and unemployment.

JAKHAR'S FATE
Besides the fate of the nine Congress members who were suspended for the rest of the budget session, a privilege motion against Jakhar for bringing in the Tarn Taran woman without an entry pass into the Vidhan Sabha complex is yet to be decided on.

Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal had announced during Friday's proceedings that he had handed over the matter to the privilege committee.

Jakhar admitted on Friday that Wednesday's ugly scenes were "uncalled for" but, at the same time, said the opposition was "pushed to the wall" to climb up to the speaker's chair as they were not allowed to raise the crucial issue of the alleged raid on the CLP office.

The ball is now in the court of the speaker, even as the leader of the House, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, has expressed his desire for presence of the opposition in the assembly.

Despite owning up the responsibility for the Congress members climbing up to the speaker's chair, Jakhar is likely to fail in bringing the opposition inside the House as the discussion on the governor's address resumes at 2pm on Monday.

"Why should we apologise when we were not heard inside the House? We will continue with our mock session outside," said Kuljit Singh Nagra, one of the nine suspended Congress MLAs.

The SAD-BJP coalition has, meanwhile, scheduled a joint legislature party meeting ahead of the resumption of proceedings.

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