Punjab assembly session: As row with Congress reigns, SAD steals AAP’s thunder | punjab | top | Hindustan Times
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Punjab assembly session: As row with Congress reigns, SAD steals AAP’s thunder

On Friday, when AAP leaders held a mock session after boycotting the House proceedings, MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira was repeatedly heard clarifying in his speech that the SAD was “equally responsible” for the woes of Punjab. “Our fight with the SAD will continue to be the same as it was earlier,” he stressed. 

punjab Updated: Jun 24, 2017 09:30 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
BLACK ROBE PROTEST: (From left) Three non-Sikh MLAs — BJP’s Som Parkash and Arun Narang, and SAD’s NK Sharma — wear ‘patka’ and turban to express solidarity in protest with SAD chief Sukhbir Badal and others, at the Vidhan Sabha complex in Chandigarh on Friday.
BLACK ROBE PROTEST: (From left) Three non-Sikh MLAs — BJP’s Som Parkash and Arun Narang, and SAD’s NK Sharma — wear ‘patka’ and turban to express solidarity in protest with SAD chief Sukhbir Badal and others, at the Vidhan Sabha complex in Chandigarh on Friday.(Keshav Singh/HT)

Politics was on display in all its conflicting hues in the Punjab assembly session that concluded on Friday. Turbans were tossed, MLAs manhandled, and at least two were hospitalised — it appeared that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was fighting an all-out war with the Congress. Then, the SAD-BJP stood up, by the AAP’s side, made as much (if not more) noise, and managed to make its way into the mindspace and headlines that the principal opposition party would have grabbed solo.

From providing “shield” to AAP MLAs in forcibly entering the House after they were suspended by the speaker on Thursday, to escalating the issue with former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s hospital visit, the SAD led by Sukhbir Singh Badal used its experience to its advantage.

It appeared ironic, but symbolic of what happened, when Sukhbir got three top men of the AAP — HS Phoolka, who is leader of the opposition, journalist-turned-MLA Kanwar Sandhu, and Punjab unit co-president Aman Arora — to accompany him in his car to visit the AAP MLAs. Bikram Singh Majithia, whom the rookie party had promised to jail if it had come to power, was driving.

The stated common issue was the “pride of the turban and Sikh Panth”.

But, within the AAP as well, opinions remained divided over taking “help” of the SAD. “Before the polls, we were terming Majithia responsible for the drug menace in Punjab,” reminded an AAP MLA outside the House, “But our leaders sat in a car driven by him. It was wrong strategy to use SAD MLAs as shield to re-enter the House after suspension too. A trap was laid, and we fell into it.”

On Friday, when AAP leaders held a mock session after boycotting the House proceedings, MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira was repeatedly heard clarifying in his speech that the SAD was “equally responsible” for the woes of Punjab.“Our fight with the SAD will continue to be the same as it was earlier,” he stressed.

Phoolka, though, defended taking help of the SAD, and claimed, “Rather, it was the AAP’s trap against the SAD in which they fell.” He explained, “Otherwise, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Akal Takht would not have issued notices to the speaker against the tossing of turbans. The SAD did all this for us as it has a say in these organisations.” The SGPC is ruled by the SAD.

Sukhbir, when asked what led to supporting the AAP in the House, said, “It was an issues of Sikh pride... If Congress MLAs had met with the same treatment, we would have done this for them as well.”

The SAD’s strategy to hold protest on Friday, too, was relatively more organised, as the party’s MLAs wore black robes and even the non-Sikh MLAs — including those of partner BJP — wore a turban.