Cong vs Cong in Punjab assembly, SAD raises sack-Sidhu pitch
Ministers accuse own govt of ‘colluding’ with Akalis; cornered over Pulwama remark, Sidhu dubs Majithia ‘a smuggler, a thief’; AAP asks CM to quit saying his colleagues accused him of shielding ex-minister.Updated: Feb 18, 2019 22:45 IST
The live telecast of budget presentation in the Punjab assembly went viral on Monday after ministers opened a front against their own government, accusing it of being in cahoots with the Akalis, amid a free-for-all between the treasury benches and the opposition party MLAs, causing a major embarrassment to the ruling party.
In a first, the finance minister’s speech was disrupted by the slogan-shouting members right next to his mike.
Wearing black badges, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLAs flashed pictures of local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in of Imran Khan as prime minister and called him (Sidhu) a traitor. Former minister Bikram Singh Majithia asked the government to sack Sidhu for his “anti-national” remarks while shouting, “Sidhu ka Pak prem murdabad (down with Sidhu’s love for Pakistan).”
Majithia’s rant could be heard louder than Manpreet’s speech as Sidhu, who sits next to Manpreet in the House, looked on. After nearly 35 minutes, speaker Rana KP Singh told the Akalis there is no precedent of a zero hour on the budget day. A miffed Sidhu then got up and the House plunged into a mudslinging match between him and Majithia.
Sidhu called him a smuggler and questioned the Majithia family’s patriotism saying they dined with the British general who ordered the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and asked which party (SAD’s alliance partner BJP) released terrorists at Kandahar.
“Ae taskar mainu deshbhakti sikhayega! Tu chitta bechan wala, chor, daaku! (a smuggler will teach me patriotism! You a smack seller, a thief, a dacoit!),” Sidhu said, as Amritsar (South) MLA Inderbir Bolaria too joined him in his rant. Earlier, Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljit Nagra, who dared Majithia, was reined in by his party colleagues.
Speaker Rana KP then ordered the marshals to escort the Akali and BJP members out of the House and adjourned it for 20 minutes. As Majithia led his party members out from front of the treasury benches, an angry jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said it was all their own government’s “weakness” that Majithia was walking free without any fear of the law. “Sadi apni sarkar aena naal rali hui ae. Sadi police naal rali hui ae (our own government and police are in cahoots with the Akalis).”
This again enraged Sidhu who too was heard saying gesturing towards chief minister Amarinder Singh, “Enu andar ditha honda te aj khule aam na ghumda hunda (had we put Majithia behind the bars, he would not have been roaming free like this).”
Later, Randhawa said, “Yes, I questioned my own government. Had we made report of additional deputy general of police (ADGP) Harpereet Sidhu against Majithia on the Bhola drug case public, he would not be standing here.”
The principal opposition, Aam Admi Party, welcomed the ministers’ outburst by thumping their desks and cheering. Party’s Kotkapura MLA Kultar Singh Sandhawan told the ministers they finally spoke the truth.
As the ministers and the MLAs tried to pacify Sidhu and Randhawa, the CM, who is the leader of House, remained a mute spectator. With the party’s floor strategy or lack of it coming under fire, parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra went to the CM and soon other ministers and MLAs too joined in even as Randhawa, Sidhu along with some MLAs declared they would beat up Majithia if he came inside the house again.
Some MLAs also questioned the role of the speaker for allowing the Akalis to disrupt the budget speech by shouting slogans next to the finance minister. But Rana dismissed it saying he cannot stop people from protesting.
CM should resign, says Bhagwant Mann
Later, AAP state unit president Bhagwant Mann told reporters the CM should resign as his own ministers had accused him of colluding with the Badals on the floor of the House. “It has vindicated our party’s stand that Amarinder is playing a fixed match with the Badals. It was an open admission of the government’s failure by minister Randhawa in presence of the CM, who was sitting like a lame duck. Even Sidhu dubbed Majithia as a smuggler, accusing Amarinder of shielding him. It shows the CM is ignoring the advice of his own ministers and has no right to continue as head of the council of ministers,” Mann said.