Even as the religious turmoil in Punjab is turning into a political slugfest, state assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Congress legislator Ramanjit Sikki, who had put in his papers in protest against the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.
The acceptance of Sikki’s resignation has declined the tally of Congress legislators in the state assembly to 42, and will also force fourth byelection in Punjab since the second-consecutive Akali government took over in 2012. Out of 46 MLAs of the Congress, two — Joginder Pal Jain (Moga) and Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu (Talwandi Sabo) — deserted the party and won byelections as Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidates, while another in Arvind Khanna resigned and quit politics. His seat, Dhuri, went to the SAD in the bypoll.
The Punjab and Haryana high court quashed the election of MLA Mohammad Sadiq, and he has appealed against the verdict in the Supreme Court. The party also enjoys support of independent MLA Rajnish Babbi.
Sikki, whom the speaker had summoned on Tuesday for personal hearing, refused to appear before him. In a letter to the speaker, Sikki said he had no faith in him (the speaker) since he had proved to be part of the ruling dispensation against which he had resigned. “I had expected you to be custodian of the dignity of the legislature but I assume that you stood by the government rather than your MLAs,” wrote the legislator.
“I do not deem it appropriate to appear before you and plead for the acceptance of my resignation on the issue that has not touched your conscience, neither as a public representative nor as a Sikh,” reads the letter.
When contacted, Sikki hit out at Atwal and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), saying the party’s core committee had decided to accept his resignation and the speaker had just complied with its orders.
“There is no rule of law in this state. The Akalis have distributed `20 crore in my constituency recently. They were preparing for the byelection even before my resignation was accepted. Why has the SAD not shown the same haste in accepting resignations of SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) members and the party leaders who resigned against the government’s complicity in disrespect shown to Guru Granth Sahib? What the speaker has done is not right. He has let down Sikhs and the MLAs by doing government’s bidding,” Sikki said.
A devout Sikh who spends a month every year at the Golden Temple, Sikki has said the acceptance of his resignation shows the government has accepted its failure to stop incidents of sacrilege and unwillingness to address Sikh concerns. While many saw his resignation as an attempt to secure his win in 2017 state elections from the Sikh-dominated Khadoor Sahib seat, Sikki said he would face the bypoll, if the people of his constituency ask him to.
The acceptance of Sikki’s resignation is part of SAD changed strategy to go on an offensive against its political opponents and take on its detractors to gain control of the situation.