The five-day winter session of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly began on a stormy note on Monday with the opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), staging a walkout on not getting to discuss the charges of corruption against chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
As soon as the Speaker, Brij Behari Lal Butail, announced the question hour after the House paid tributes to its deceased former member, Lajja Ram, BJP legislator Rajeev Bindal pointed out to the Speaker that a notice had been moved by the opposition, under rule 67, demanding an adjournment motion on the corruption charges against the CM.
“It was for the first time in the history of the Himachal Pradesh that Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided premises of a sitting CM,” Bindal said.
“It has brought a bad name to the state and the matter should be discussed in the House,” he added, while urging the Speaker to allow adjournment motion.
However, the Speaker, citing rule 69 (8) rejected the adjournment motion stating that a sub-judice matter couldn’t be discussed in the House, inviting protest from the opposition legislators, including Ravinder Singh Ravi, Randhir Sharma and Suresh Bhardwaj.
Ravi questioned the Speaker why his separate notice under rule 67, which was regarding tardy pace of development, was rejected, to which the Speaker responded that he had forwarded the matter to the government for a response.
As parliamentary affairs minister Mukesh Agnihotri intervened, saying that sub-judice matters couldn’t be discussed in the House and the Speaker should proceed with the question hour, BJP’s Randhir Sharma said no case in connection with the ED raids on the CM’s properties was pending in the court, and hence it could be discussed.
This led to a verbal spat between Agnihotri and Sharma, as the former said the case being probed by the CBI and ED was one and the same.
Meanwhile, the Speaker asked Congress legislator Ravi Thakur to take up his question, following which the opposition members stood on their seats and started raising slogans and waving placards against chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
Amid the melee, agriculture and power minister Sujan Singh Pathania continued to respond to Thakur’s question, peeving the opposition MLAs further.
As the question hour concluded, the chief minister stood up to read out the agenda to be taken up during the week, but the opposition decided to walk out of the House.
Speaking to the media later, leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal said the opposition would continue to stage walkouts until a discussion on the corruption charges against the chief minister.
Dhumal alleged that the state government was deferring discussion on the growing corruption in the state on one pretext or the other.
“FIRs have been registered by the CBI and ED against Virbhadra Singh in corruption case and it become important to discuss the issue, which is by and large related to public interest,” Dhumal said.