The Punjab Congress’ shoot-and-scoot strategy in the Vidhan Sabha on Thursday had the desired impact on the otherwise serene but sharp-witted chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Badal was not only off-colour but also unable to turn the tide against the Congress during this short four-sitting session that concluded on Thursday.
After the Congress on Wednesday ambushed the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP regime on an array of issues revolving around farmers and the aam aadmi, the ruling dispensation was raring to hit back at the opposition on Thursday during the inconclusive debate on the farm crisis. The chief minister, indeed, launched the counter-attack. But the Congress was not present. And, the vintage Badal was missing completely during the 50 minutes the grand old man of Punjab’s politics was on his feet.
“Swaad odon aaunda jadon saamne koi baitha hundaa (it’s always better when the Opposition is present),” the chief minister admitted, rueing the Congress’ move of not attending the House proceedings during the address of the leader of the House.
On Wednesday evening, the discussion on an ‘official resolution’ regarding the farm crisis was suspended after the Congress staged a walkout shortly before Badal was to wrap up the debate.
In a bid to ensure the Congress’ presence during the CM’s address on Thursday, speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal played the peacenik and held parleys with the Opposition to attend the address. However, within eight minutes of Badal’s address, the Congress stormed out of the House on the issue of a Bathinda farmer committing suicide.
“Give a reply on this farmer’s suicide,” demanded Sunil Jakhar, even as Badal had just begun his address. The chief minister angrily objected to the disruption caused by Jakhar. “It is unfortunate... the Congress raises a point and then leaves the House,” Badal said as the Opposition, raising slogans, walked out, leaving the CM to address empty benches.
The chief minister hit out at Jakhar, saying that the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader was not maintaining decorum.
Badal said: “The Congress is disrupting the proceedings… They neither respect the House nor the speaker... We are elected representatives and our behaviour should be exemplary. But the CLP leader gets up to disrupt proceedings and speaks on any issue without maintaining the sanctity of his chair.”
The chief minister ticked off the speaker also. Badal’s contention was that the speaker gave complete freedom to the Congress instead of restraining the opposition.
Badal was miffed so much that at the beginning of his address, as speaker Atwal was leaving the House for a short break, the CM sharply commented on it. The speaker had to tell Badal that he would be back within two minutes.
As Badal was at the centre of Jakhar’s debate on the farm crisis, the chief minister dubbed the Congress allegations as an attempt to “play to the gallery and exploit the situation.”
The CM assured the House that anyone found guilty of supplying spurious pesticides to cotton cultivators in the state would not be spared at any cost. “The guilty will be punished and justice will be done,” he said.
In damage-control mode
* During his address in the House, CM Badal listed several steps for the welfare of beleaguered farmers
*SIT probe underway to fix responsibility of erring officials and dealers involved in the sale of spurious pesticides to cotton cultivators
*Exemplary punishment to be given to those found guilty of supplying spurious pesticides to whitefly-hit cotton farmers (whitefly attack in 11,780 acres spread over six districts of Malwa)
* Rs 10 crore released for payment of compensation to cotton farmers who have already ploughed back their crop
* SAD-BJP govt has provided free power worth Rs 28,000 crore to farmers. In 2014, additional power worth Rs 1,400 crore was purchased during paddy season to meet increased demand of farmers
* Rs 3,800 crore to be spent on rejuvenation and upgrade of canal network
* Enhanced compensation from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh under the farmers’ suicide policy
* NDA government increased relief for crop loss from Rs 3,600 per acre to Rs 8,000 per acre
* Modi government included loss of farm crop due to hailstorms, frost and pest attack in the category of natural calamities
* Under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Rs 1,371 crore approved for lining of water courses, underground pipes and drip irrigation in Jalandhar (Bist Doab canal), Hoshiarpur (Kandi canal) and Moga (Sidhwan canal).