Rana Kanwarpal Singh was elected the Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker on Monday amid walkout by the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over the issue of debate on the governor’s address.
Known as Rana KP in political circles, the three-time MLA from Anandpur Sahib was sworn in as the pro tem speaker last week ahead of the first session of the 15th Vidhan Sabha that began on Friday.
As soon as the House proceedings began on Monday, leader of opposition HS Phoolka said the Congress was violating the constitutional provisions and Vidhan Sabha rules by not allowing debate immediately after the governor’s address scheduled on Tuesday.
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AAP’s chief whip Sukhpal Singh Khaira also questioned postponing of the debate till the next session and staged a walkout with other party MLAs, while raising slogans against the speaker and the Congress government.
The walkout triggered series of reactions from the treasury benches. Even the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised the AAP, though its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) kept mum on the issue.
Justifying the decision to walk out, Phoolka said its important for the opposition to react when the government is violating the constitution. “This (decision not to hold debate) is an indicator of how this government will behave in the future,” he said.
Capt, Sidhu justify govt stand
Later, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, also leader of the House, proposed Rana KP’s name for the speaker’s post. Parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra seconded his name.
Amarinder in his congratulatory speech said: “We call speaker ‘saab’ Rana KP. He will be a successful speaker. He is a cool-headed person. The treasury benches will support him.”
Reading out a brief on Rana KP’s political career (see box), the CM said he has been a successful lawyer and has thorough knowledge of the Indian legal system and constitutional provisions.
Turning his focus to the AAP walkout, the CM said: “Such things are common, yet very unfortunate.”
Capt said the main opposition party should uphold the dignity of the House instead of indulging in “cheap dharna politics”.
Defending the government stand, cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said the AAP had lost its plot in Punjab and had been completely exposed. He said the government had merely sought time to hold the debate and was in no way denying the opposition its right to debate on the governor’s address.
“The government has yet to start functioning,” he said, adding: “Let the time come and we will give them (AAP) a suitable response on everything.”
Cabinet minister Charanjeet Singh Channi, too, castigated the AAP for staging a walkout during an important matter (speaker’s election) of the House.
Speaking on behalf of the Shiromani Akali Dal, former minister Ajit Singh Kohar said he hoped the new speaker will manage the Vidhan Sabha affairs well. Som Parkash of the BJP, meanwhile, criticised the AAP, while promising “full support” to the new speaker.