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Punjab Congress hit by friendly fire, all-party MPs’ meet ends in heartburn

Capt ducks Bajwa’s bouncers:Just four out of 20 MPs attend; Mohindra, Jakhar hit out at those who boycotted; CM tells absentees to rise above ‘petty politics’.

punjab Updated: Nov 16, 2017 12:25 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab Congress,Congress,Congress hit by friendly fire
(From left) Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar; Punjab parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra; Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla and Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi at a press conference in Chandigarh on Wednesday. (Karun Sharma/HT )

An initiative by Captain Amarinder Singh government to unite MPs of all parties to raise the state’s issues in Parliament’s winter session was hit by friendly fire. Just four of 20 MPs (13 in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Rajya Sabha) from the state attended Wednesday’s meeting.

All three Rajya Sabha MPs from the Congress skipped the meeting. Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo had publicly boycotted the meeting questioning the absence of the CM after sending an invite to MPs. Ambika Soni also stayed away. Of party’s four Lok Sabha MPs, three were present with Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu having to attend a meeting in Delhi.

26 items were on agenda
  • Punjab parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra said there were 26 items on the agenda of the meeting. “We want MPs to raise Punjab’s concerns and stand on stubble burning, construction of key railway links, funds for development of border areas and problems of its farmers, water-logging in some parts of the state and tax concessions to neighbouring hill states,” he said. Jakhar said,“We also want to ask the Centre to settle Rs 31,000 crore cash credit limit debt on the state. It has to share the burden.”

Of the four MPs of the opposition, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), three — Bhagwant Mann, Prof Sadhu Singh and one of its two suspended MPs, Harinder Khalsa — were absent. Only Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi, also under suspension, attended it. The meeting was convened on Gandhi’s request for coordination among all parties to raise Punjab’s issues.

Though all praise for the government’s efforts, he told reporters, after the meeting, that it had been ‘marred by intra-party and inter-party feuds’.

Akalis cite CM’s flip-flop

The Akali MPs boycotted the meeting, citing a ‘flip-flop’ by the CM. The invite to MPs on October 31 said the meeting will be chaired by the CM. The date of the meeting was changed to November 14, owing to the CM’s engagements. However, Amarinder finally deputed parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra to chair it on November 15.

“The CM seems to have no time for Punjab’s issues himself,” Akali MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said. The party has three members each in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. BJP state chief and union minister Vijay Sampla and Rajya Sabha member Shwait Malik also gave the meeting a miss.

Amarinder apparently skipped the meeting to duck the bouncers of Bajwa, who had declared, prematurely, that he will question him on party’s poll promise “to jail former Akali ministers involved in various scams”.

Punjab Congress chief and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar said the CM was unwell. He hit out at Congress MPs who boycotted the meeting, saying, “Those who have not come are all former state presidents of the party. They knew this meeting was for Punjab and not the party. They can raise issues concerning the party or the government with the CM anytime,” he said.

Mohindra dubbed it was a loss of the missing MPs, saying they had taken a step backwards. “MPs represent not just their party, but the state. Rising above party lines, the government wanted to brief them on important issues. It seems they are not interested in issues concerning Punjab and its people,” he said.

Amarinder, too, hit back at the absentees asking them to rise above “petty political considerations”. He said it was the prerogative of SAD MPs to attend or not to attend the meeting. “As elected representatives, the MPs were responsible for collectively raising concerns of the state in both Houses of Parliament and the proposed meeting was an important forum to formalise their agenda. Any MP who decided to boycott the same would do so at the cost of the welfare of Punjab and its people,” Amarinder said in a statement. Other than Jakhar and AAP’s Gandhi, Congress Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla and Jalandhar MP Santokh Choudhary were present.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 12:25 IST