Congress top guns went blazing in the Punjab assembly on Wednesday leaving the Parkash Singh Badal government virtually defenceless during the high-pitched six-hour proceedings.
The action revolved around the “official resolution” of the government to discuss farm crisis in the border state and how to bail out the beleaguered peasantry.
However, the Akali Dal-BJP coalition regime, which claims itself to be the champion of farmers’ cause, was on the back foot right from the word go after the opposition, led by Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar, mounted a sharpest ever attack --- backed by official documents exposing multi-layered corruption in agricultural sector --- on it.
Such was the Congress offensive that it left the otherwise belligerent ruling party legislators stunned, especially when Jakhar accused chief minister Badal of shielding a shady key agriculture department official for votes.
Ultimately, the lengthy debate on farmers’ plight was suspended in the evening after the Congress staged a noisy walkout from the House protesting against agriculture minister Tota Singh whose scalp the Opposition wanted for the government’s “failure to effectively deal with the whitefly attack on cotton crop”. The chief minister had to wrap up the debate on Wednesday. Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal agreed to resume the discussion on farm crisis on Thursday after concerns were raised by SAD-BJP legislators. The speaker hoped that the Congress would remain present during the CM’s reply.
The Congress’ assault began as soon as the question hour commenced. The first and the foremost target was food supplies minister Adaish Partap Singh Kairon whom the Congress pinned down over “non-supply” of subsidised sugar and kerosene to the poor people of the state. When Kairon was being targeted, none from his party came to his defence. Finally, the Congress stormed out of the House protesting against Kairon.
Much to the delight of the Congress, the speaker also chastised the ruling party MLAs. “You are challenging the chair. Please sit down,” speaker told SAD’s Virsa Singh Valtoha.
The Congress amply displayed its shrewd floor strategy and didn’t fall in the trap of the government. When the debate on farmers’ issue began, the speaker repeatedly reminded the Congress of the parliamentary ethos that when leader of the House replies, the Opposition should remain present. “The tradition is that during the CM’s reply, all members should be present. This is my special request to Congress members that they don’t leave the House at the time of CM’s reply,” said the speaker.
Jakhar inflicted the maximum damage on the government while participating in the debate on farmers’ crisis. Around 6.30, sparks started flying as revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Congress’ Kuljit Singh Nagra were seen shouting at each other. A section of the Opposition and ruling MLAs were too on their feet, firing verbal salvos at their adversaries.
Finally, as agriculture minister Tota Singh rose to speak during the debate at 6.55 pm, the Congress protested and walked out of the House. “The move (of the Congress) to walk out of the House after leveling allegations against the minister is unfortunate,” said parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal, who was joined by other MLAs urging speaker to postpone the chief minister’s reply for Thursday. “I tried my best to ensure the Congress remains in the House,” the speaker said as he decided to suspend the debate for Thursday when Badal will wrap up the debate. But it was the Congress that had the last laugh.