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Mock session? Akalis hijack no-confidence motion with ‘badge’

punjab Updated: Sep 13, 2016 09:58 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times
no-confidence motion

Punjab Congress leaders protesting during the monsoon session of the assembly in Chandigarh on Monday. (Keshav Singh/HT)

Can someone occupying the chair of the speaker wear a “proud to be Akali” badge? The Congress seemed right in objecting to the impropriety when Akali MLA Iqbal Singh Jhunda came to occupy the speaker’s chair during a no-confidence motion moved by it on Monday. But the Congress soon lost the plot.

The debate was started at 5pm by leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi. But within no time, Congress MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli objected to Jhunda’s wearing the badge — flaunted by all Akalis on diktat of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. When Jhunda said, “I will be neutral, you don’t have to worry about the badge,” Congress MLAs stormed to the well of the House shouting slogans.

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Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Congress MLA Tarlochan Singh Soondh tried to breach the security wall created by the assembly watch and ward staff by pushing them. Amid the unruly scenes, the speaker returned to the chair and told the House he had gone to use the washroom.

Elated at their victory, the Congress MLAs came back to their benches clapping and Channi began his speech by saying, “those who are supposed to protect are looting the state.” He then went on to use words which were expunged by the speaker. But the provocation was enough for Akali firebrand MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha to dub Congress as “corrupt” and drop a former CM’s name. At this, Channi and Sukhjinder Randhawa erupted and Balbir Sidhu called Valtoha a “terrorist”.

Then on, it was a test of lung power as both sides resorted to shouting slogans of “shame, shame” and thumping of desks.

The ruling benches demanded Channi to take back his words. But he refused saying he had quoted lines out of Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib. The speaker then asked Channi to continue his speech.

But as soon as he resumed his speech, another Akali MLA Gurpratap Singh Wadala was on the speaker’s chair with his “proud to be Akali” badge. The House was disrupted again by Congress MLAs, but Wadala too refused to remove the badge saying: “Tomorrow, you will also ask me to remove my blue turban (the Akali colour).” Even the Congress seemed a divided house, as Warring and Channi disagreed over the latter’s not being able to continue as three other speakers, including Warring, Sukhjinder Randhawa and Sunil Jakhar, too, had their speeches lined up. This time when Atwal returned to his chair, he said: “The opposition does not seem serious about debating the motion” and put it to vote.

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The motion was defeated and the Akalis left their benches smiling. The Congress MLAs threw paper planes and booklets from their desks at the speaker’s chair.

But the show did not end here. As the security wall of the assembly staff stood guarding an empty speaker’s chair, the Congress held a mock session with Warring and Navtej Cheema occupying the chairs of Sukhbir and CM Parkash Singh Badal in the assembly. The party MLAs later stayed put at the floor of the House till the filing of the report.

The party, which had listed a host of issues from “mafia-raj”, law and order, farm crisis to unemployment”, let the Akalis hijack it literally by a badge.

Cong used flippant excuse of badge: CM

In a statement later, CM Prakash Singh Badal said the Congress used a flippant excuse of party badges to run away from a debate.

“Is a party badge the most important issue of the people of Punjab? It showed no interest in discussing their own motion of no confidence against the government. It seems the Congress was surprised by our readiness and confidence to face the motion and was not prepared for a discussion on it,” Badal said.