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Sidhu-Majithia spat rocks Punjab assembly

The exchange degenerated into accusations and finger-pointing, with a visibly agitated Sidhu repeatedly calling the Akali leader names that were immediately expunged by speaker Rana KP Singh.

punjab Updated: Mar 22, 2018 20:25 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Navjot Sidhu,Bikram Majithia,Punjab assembly
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia (left); and Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu(HT Photos)

An ongoing spat between local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia over a drug racket case resonated in the Punjab assembly on Thursday.

Sidhu and Majithia, whose antipathy towards each other is no secret, got into an argument without any serious provocation, shouting at the top of their lungs on the third day of the budget session. The exchange degenerated into accusations and finger-pointing, with a visibly agitated Sidhu repeatedly calling the Akali leader names that were immediately expunged by speaker Rana KP Singh. As his repeated requests failed to calm things down, the speaker adjourned the House for half an hour.

After Centre ‘assurance’ on langar GST

The row occurred during Zero Hour after SAD MLA and former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa spoke on waiver of goods and services tax (GST) on langar (community kitchen) items at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, and other religious places in the state. Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had on Wednesday announced that his government would forgo its half of GST levied on food items coming into Golden Temple for langar.

“(SAD president) Sukhbir Singh Badal and (party MP) Prem Singh Chandumajra met Union finance minister Arun Jaitley who assured them that if the Punjab government is waiving its share of GST, the Centre will also consider waiving its portion of the tax,” Dhinsa told the House. He further said that as finance minister Manpreet Badal had sought exemption, that would have meant cut in compensation, and other states were not in agreement with that.

The ruling Congress members were immediately on their feet, objecting to the Akali leader’s statement. “What have they done? Why didn’t the Centre waive the tax six months ago?” asked Sidhu. Manpreet said that if Jaitley had given such an assurance, he would welcome it.

SAD complains against Sidhu

While some other Congress MLAs, including Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, wanted to speak on the matter, Majithia got up to have his say too. An enraged Sidhu instantly went after him; and Majithia responded in equal measure. As they hurled allegations at each other, the rancour between the two leaders, who have been having a war of words for the past few days over a special task force (STF) report on illicit drugs, was palpable.

The speaker expunged much of their personal attacks against each other before adjourning the House, but the duo carried on finger-pointing even as most other members went out. Later, three SAD legislators — Dhindsa, Sharanjit Dhillon and Pawan Kumar Tinu — went to the speaker and complained against the minister’s conduct. “We told him that the minister should not have behaved in this manner,” said Dhindsa.

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 20:22 IST