After embarrassing itself in the Punjab assembly’s budget session so far, the opposition Congress on Sunday issued all its 42 legislators a whip to be in the House on Monday and Tuesday when the debate concludes on the budget and legislative business will be taken up.
The message of party’s chief whip Navtej Cheema has gone out, as even the senior MLAs have been giving the speeches of leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi a miss. The latter is finding no support when he fumbles, which he did many times when he took on the government during his speech on the motion of thanks on the governor’s address and during the budget debate.
Just 10 MLAs were present when Channi struggled to corner the government on its achievements listed in the governor’s address; and on Friday, Channi willy-nilly fell into a trap of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, who asked him to recount the achievements of the previous Congress government; and Channi again scored a self-goal, even as just three MLAs came to his rescue.
To remind the ruling benches and his own party MLAs of what he did as CM, Amarinder will himself be in the state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on Monday afternoon in the assembly. “Sukhbir challenged us to a debate on our achievements during Amarinder’s rule. We will take him on and demand the debate,” said state Congress chief whip Cheema. Congress legislators Kewal Dhillon and Rana Sodhi, whom Sukhbir had mocked on Friday for being “beneficiaries of the Amarinder rule”, have been asked to counter-attack. This united show after internal feuds during the session and the Rajya Sabha nominations comes when the murmurs of dissent against Channi are growing, with many MLAs accusing him of trying to steal credit, taking unilateral decisions, and not taking seniors into confidence. Channi, on his part, feels lack of cooperation from the senior MLAs.
“Just a handful of MLAs are reporting before the session, so effectively no CLP meeting is taking place and no floor strategy being planned. No wonder, the party is finding itself on the back foot,” said a senior Congress MLA.
Get back to tradition of top posts for seniors, says Dullo
After leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi embarrassed Punjab Congress in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday by his poor knowledge of state affairs, party’s new Rajya Sabha member Shamsher Singh Dullo has called for going back to the tradition of giving top posts only to seniors.
“It was a tradition in the Congress to keep prestigious posts for only its long-serving leaders, but now even those who came in a few months ago are getting to be Rajya Sabha nominees and leader of opposition in the assembly,” Dullo said on Saturday during a press conference here, adding that the party had leaders more loyal and competent than Channi and Hans Raj Hans.
Channi is a second-time legislator who fought his first assembly election as an independent from Chamkaur Sahib in 2007; and Sufi singer Hans was almost made Rajya Sabha nominee before Dullo grabbed his ticket at the eleventh hour.
Dullo said Channi was a hasty choice as leader of the opposition, and the party should go with seniors. Asked if he would demand a senior in place of Channi, Dullo said it was for the party high-command to decide.
Taking dig at Hans, who said a few senior leaders from the Raviasia community had lobbied against him because he was a Balmiki, Dullo said: “Be it Ravidasias or Balmikis, the Constitution recognises us as Scheduled Castes. Those who are finding castes within castes for political mileage are no less than the general class that oppresses Dalits.”
The Congress leader, who is at odds with Punjab party president Captain Amarinder Singh, also said his Rajya Sabha elevation was the result of the efforts of senior Congressmen and “not those who have come from outside”.