Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal is under opposition fire after he declared defeated a no-confidence motion brought by the Congress on Monday. In protest, the Congress legislators went on a sit-in and sleepover inside the House. The session ended on Wednesday with allegations of casteist remarks and a shoe-hurling incident. HT spoke to the speaker on the issues. Excerpts:
The Congress is accusing you of bias. Your take.
I am an Akali and my job as speaker is to make sure the government’s bills are passed and the Opposition also gets the chance to speak. Some of the Congress MLAs tried to malign me; I ignored and continued with the House business. The level of politics has gone so low that Opposition doesn’t respect the speaker, lowering the dignity of the chair. I tried to involve Congress MLAs in the debate, but they created ruckus. I think, they had a plan how to behave come what may.
What action you think will be appropriate for casteist remarks and hurling shoe in the House?
I didn’t hear any casteist remark by an Akali MLA as being alleged by the Congress. I was busy getting bills passed as it was last day of the session. But no justification is enough for hurling shoe in the House. It’s unfortunate. So far, no action has been proposed, I will have to check the rules.
How do you rate your performance as speaker?
I did my best to run the House smoothly, but Congress MLAs were bent on creating a pandemonium. What has happened in the past three days is the worst phase of my life. Wednesday was the most ‘manhoos’ (inauspicious) day in my political career spanning over about six decades.
The Opposition says the number of days of session has come down as compared to the previous years.
No doubt, earlier the sessions, in the Parliament as well as in the Vidhan Sabha, were longer. Now, there is practice of House committees that cuts the need for debates in the assembly. Punjab has 13 Vidhan Sabha committees to take decisions on different issues.