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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Bill to save Amarinder’s MLA advisers from disqualification passed

AAP terms the move unconstitutional; SAD says if CM should induct these MLAs as ministers if he has so much faith in them

chandigarh Updated: Nov 07, 2019 23:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh

The Vidhan Sabha on Thursday passed the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill amid walkout by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators and protest by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) members.

The bill keeps the MLAs, who were recently appointed as advisers to the chief minister with cabinet and state ministers’ rank, out of the purview of ‘office of profit’.

The government had recently appointed six MLAs — Khushaldeep Singh Kikki Dhillon (Faridkot), Amrinder Singh Raja Warring (Gidderbaha), Kuljeet Singh Nagra (Fatehgarh Sahib), Sangat Singh Gilzian (Urmur Tanda), Inderbir Singh Bolaria (Amritsar South) and Tarsem DC (Attari) — as the advisers to the Chief Minister. DC has been accorded the status of Minister of State where rests have been given the Cabinet status.

When local bodies, and parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra introduced the bill, leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema stood up terming the amendment unconstitutional. “How much work the chief minister has that these MLAs were appointed as advisers? Is the CM short of IAS officers to assist him? When it comes to giving dearness allowance (DA) to employees or scholarships to needy students and regularising the contractual staff, finance minister Manpreet Badal says the state’s coffers are empty. These appointments are sheer wastage of taxpayers’ money,” said Cheema.

SAD leader in the House, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, said the amendments were legally untenable as it violates the very spirit of the law that only 15% of the total strength of the House can be ministers.

“If these MLAs are really capable, the CM can make them ministers. The amendments will fall flat in the court of law as it happened with the appointments of chief parliamentary secretaries and parliamentary secretaries in the past,” said Dhindsa.

Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains said the chief minister already has an army of officers on special duty (OSDs) who are only enjoying privileges and doing nothing.

“The government doesn’t have money to fulfill the promises made to the people of Punjab such as on farm loan waiver, providing ₹2,500 unemployment allowance and increasing the Shagun Scheme money. In such a scenario these MLAs are being offered perks of cabinet ministers,” he said.

When the speaker kept reading the text to pass the bill, the MLAs stood up and stormed into the well while raising slogans against the government.

CM’s advisers defend their appointment

Raja Warring and Nagra, who are among the six MLAs who were given cabinet status as CM’s advisers, defended the amendment in the bill. Warring tried to corner the AAP, saying the party had promised to the people of Punjab that its MLAs won’t take government vehicles and security but now they are enjoying all perks and have four gunmen each.

To target the SAD, he had come with an old RTI about expenditure on the chopper expenses of Parkash Singh Badal as chief minister in the previous term and the travelling allowance (TA) claimed by Badal to visit the state while using chopper. Warring alleged that Bains brothers had claimed ₹34 lakh as medical bill from the Vidhan Sabha in capacity of MLAs.

“We were elevated as advisers three months ago. If anyone can prove that I withdrew a single penny apart from salary as MLA, I will resign. I never wanted to be an adviser. But the CM sahib, who is like my father, called me to convince me that he wanted me to be his adviser,” said Warring.

Nagra said he is the only MLA who pays income tax on his salary from his own pocket. “I also pay bills for the pump houses I have installed in my fields for agricultural purpose,” he said.

Acrimonious scenes between LIP’s Bains, Raja Warring

High drama prevailed in the House after the bill was passed. When the speaker adjourned the assembly sine die, Warring, who came to well of the House with some other MLAs, took a jibe at the Bains brothers for claiming ₹34 lakh as medical bills.

The situation turned acrimonious when Bains told Warring, “Enaa gurda nahi tere wich jinna tun bolda (you don’t have the guts to do what you say). On this, Warring went towards Bains challenging him.

Health minister Balbir SinghSidhu took on Bains, saying “Edda babbar sher nahi hai tu vi, jina tun bolda (you are not a lion as you project yourself to be). Congress MLA, Kulbir Zira first tried to pacify Bains but later stood by Warring’s side, saying “Banda ban ja tu”.

Kikki Dhillon also told Bains, “Tainu Ludhiana de logaan nu daraun di aadat hai (you are in the habit of intimidating people of Ludhiana). Situation was calmed down when technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi went to the Bains brothers and took them outside the House.