Massive personal abuse, little public use mark Punjab budget session
The opposition couldn’t corner the Congress govt on host of issues such as rampant illegal mining, farm loan waiver, “goonda” tax and the delay in implementation of other election promises.Updated: Mar 29, 2018 21:54 IST
Before the start of the budget session of the Punjab assembly on March 20, the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had made separate, big plans to put the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government on the mat. But what happened in the seven working days of the session that ended on March 28 did not quite align with that vision, if any.
In the run-up, AAP and its since-former alliance partner Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) had even brought out a “chargesheet” against the government on completion of a year of its term. On the first day of the session, the SAD-BJP combine held a massive protest in Chandigarh over the government’s “not honouring” its promise of “complete” waiver of farm loans.
During the session, they could not take the fight to the government. Not because they lacked issues. There was enough ammunition — from the rampant illegal mining, to a piecemeal approach to farm loan waiver, to “goonda” tax and the delay in implementation of other election promises. But principal opposition AAP, which had pushed the Congress government on the back foot in previous sessions with its firebrand leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira leading the charge, was lacklustre from the start this time.
AAP was done in by a rift within, which led to a revolt by a section of party MLAs and even break-up threats at one stage, over its national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s apology to SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia in a defamation case related to drug charges just five days before the session.
The government, on the other hand, managed to conduct its business, including getting the budget and important bills passed, without hiccups. When the government brought bills on new taxes for resource mobilisation of Rs 1,500 crore, AAP protested and staged a walkout. SAD members, who left the House after the finance minister’s remarks against the Badal clan earlier, were not even present.
What stood out was that the session was dominated by ugly personal fights, with bitter political adversaries routinely calling each other names. At one stage, former minister Rana Gurjit Singh and leader of opposition Khaira, who repeatedly exchanged verbal punches, hurled the choicest of abuses at each other. The spat between local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Majithia in a drug case also resonated in the House.
The closing days saw estranged cousins, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, get extremely personal in their fight. While Sukhbir made disparaging remarks about the Manpreet’s competence, he hit back with a diatribe against paternal uncle and SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal and his family.