No lights, camera and lot of action. That’s how the Congress legislators holding a sit-in in the
Punjab assembly spent Monday night. With elections a few months away, it brought the many party factions together in one night. Some MLAs even said they finally got to spend quality time together!
The more social media-savvy among them such as leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi, Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Tarlochan Singh Soondh kept their followers and media updated on what they were up to with selfies on their Facebook pages and WhatsApp (Channi’s aide was on the mobile messenger). Warring even posted a picture of four of them brushing their teeth.
Mobile phones to the rescue
Four women MLAs, namely Karan Brar, Aruna Chaudhary, Charanjit Bajwa and Harchand Kaur, were part of the protest. Brar says they braved the humid heat and hunger in the dark. She, however, came up with the bright idea to make a video clip on her mobile and send it to Zee Punjabi, which telecast it live.
“I made the video of the four women MLAs looking stressed, sitting in pitch dark, without air-conditioners and lights, with no woman staff and men staff running all around. It was only after it was telecast that the dim lights on the side walls were switched on,” says Brar.
“With some of the men opening their turbans and others sleeping in their shorts as it was too hot, all four of us went to the office of assembly secretary Shashi Lakhanpal Mishra and slept there. We left in the morning at 5.30am to freshen up. But of us, only Aruna was able to get in. By the time we returned, the security refused to let us in,” she added.
Pictures posted on Facebook by some of the MLAs showed a few Sikh MLAs resting on their turbans and looking into the camera for a selfie. Then there’s a group photo posted on Facebook where 22 MLAs camping inside the assembly are wearing aprons with posters pinned on them that read, “Punjab da cancer, Badal sarkar (Badal government is Punjab’s cancer).
Jakhar keeps his word
Former leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar, who was asked by Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh “to guide Channi and stand by him”, during the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on September 1, kept his promise. While most senior leaders left on Monday evening on health grounds, Jakhar stayed put.
“The idea of a sit-in was floated by the youth brigade of Channi, Warring and Gurkirat Kotli. It is about showing solidarity with what the CLP decided. Since there were no lights and air-conditioners, I slept on the floor of the House at 9pm. Some others took off removable seats on benches to sleep. With nothing else to do in the dark, MLAs passed time by sharing anecdotes and gossip. In fact, for the first time, we spent quality time bonding with each other,” Jakhar said.
Keeping hunger at bay
While Channi tried to convince the media till late into Monday night that there was no food, sandwiches came from the house of MLA Gurkirat Kotli and later Amarinder too had food packets and juices sent. By 11pm, more packed food was ordered.
Amarinder, who was being briefed by his loyalists on their condition inside, kept up their morale by issuing statements outside. Finally, Navtej Cheema got to play his role as the chief whip of the party as he ensured 27 MLAs stayed back for the night. He said they had switched on lights but the assembly staff pulled the plug.
On Tuesday evening, the DIG (security) of the assembly, Mukhwinder Singh Cheema, came and said the police had to sanitise the assembly for Wednesday’s session. But the MLAs stayed on. “We never expected to win the no-confidence motion. The idea was to debate all issues which was denied,” said Brar.
But the Congress is no more complaining!