Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s speech during this year’s budget session of the assembly on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal — “Punjab does not have a drop of water to spare for other states” — is beaming on ruling family-owned PTC channel and FM radio channels. From the same session, a video of Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi helplessly fielding bouncers of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal brought much embarrassment to the party. It later fuelled a full-blown war on messaging app WhatsApp, as a furious Channi claimed the clips had been tampered with, and also accused the speaker, Charanjit Singh Atwal, of being behind the shoot-and-leak.
If party’s woes were already not overflowing, came video of Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring repeatedly saying sorry to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha, that too went viral on the messaging app. Valtoha too has often courted controversies for his “outbursts” in the assembly. But the videos, claims the Congress, are out of its reach and a “privilege” of the ruling party.
Ahead of the last session of the assembly before the 2017 state polls, Channi had demanded that video recordings be supplied to members of political parties in the House on request. However, the matter listed as the agenda item in the general purposes committee of the Vidhan Sabha held on Wednesday was deferred by Atwal after parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal of the BJP said “chairmen of other house committees too need to be present”.
Channi later accused Mittal and Atwal of deferring it, “fearing” it might be passed, as there were equal number of members (three each) from the Congress and the ruling SAD-BJP.
Citing example of the Lok Sabha, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan assemblies -- which allow video recordings to members --- Channi said: “The government is misusing videos for its publicity while opposition members are being denied the same right. The rules of Lok Sabha, which are followed as precedent by most state assemblies, clearly state that the members of the house can be supplied the videos on request. Assemblies of many states such as UP and Rajasthan too allow it and we attached copies of the same to the agenda item. People have a right to know the issues we raised in the house and the questions we asked. But speaker is not exercising his powers as a neutral person.”
He also questioned the “speaker’s contention” that since house proceedings are recorded on a hard disc which is sealed the same day, it is not possible to give video clips out of it. “How is the speech of the CM and videos of minister Bikram Singh Majithia and apologies of our MLA being leaked. The videos are not only being leaked in connivance with the government but they are also being tampered with in a studio,” Channi said.
Earlier, two private channels, including PTC, were allowed to cover the proceedings. But after expletives were hurled by Majithia went viral on YouTube, the other channel, Day and Night News, was denied the rights; later the speaker had to debar PTC too after the opposition Congress alleged “selective and biased” telecast.