MLAs must introspect seriously to restore grace of House

By Rinni Thakur

September 19, 2016

During the recently concluded Monsoon Session, Punjab Vidhan Sabha witnessed lot of commotion and unruly scenes, which ultimately disgraced the dignity of the House. As it was the ‘last session’ of the current government, the treasury benches wanted it to pass off peacefully without any major controversy which could interrupt the get going of the legislative business and the Congress as the only opposition wanted to score maximum by hitting the government hardest and apparently both succeeded in their mission.

However, the unfolding of sequence of proceedings in the Assembly hurt the voters of the state as the legislators in an unprecedented way maligned the glory and righteousness of this Parliamentary institution. The incidents like watch and ward staff physically throwing two independent legislators out of the House, opposition member hurling a shoe at treasury benches and throwing paper missiles at Speaker were unseen in the House so far. Then, a two-night sleep-in dharna, which the Congress Legislative Party held inside the Vidhan Sabha, was also a rare incident the state witnessed ever. It was further supplemented by the Mock Assembly Session, showing the opposition having least faith in the proceedings of the constitutional Assembly.

The non-permitted video shoot of the whole commotion that was also being uploaded on the social media from inside the House, not only by male legislators but also females, was also a shocking development to witness this time. The Congress wanted a debate on the ‘No Confidence Motion’ against the state government. As the Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal accepted the motion, it was put on debate on the second day of the legislative business. The Motion was all problematic as before it could start, there was a serious difference of opinion related to time framing between the Congress and the Speaker. After a long negotiable round when it could be settled, the next hurdle was waiting to crop up.

It was just the vociferous start of the CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi’s speech, during which he used the sentences of‘Gurbani’, the House witnessed a commotion with treasury benches accusing Leader of Opposition using derogatory words and the Opposition refuting the claim. The debate could not inch towards the basic issue and the whole Assembly was into lobbing verbal shells at each other. Finally, the Speaker handed over the seat to chairman-SAD’s Iqbal Singh Jhunda. The Congress legislator Gurkirat Kotli was the first to object to SAD’s badge on the chest of the Vidhan Sabha chairman. The Congress here scored well in building pressure to first send Jhunda back on treasury benches and then Gurpartap Wadala too on the same charges.

Coming back on the chair, Atwal on a hurried note declared that he was of firm opinion that the ‘Congress MLAs were unwilling to have debate on the issue.’ So he ordered for voice voting. Interestingly, the Congress MLAs were yet in chalking out further strategy and the Speaker declared the motion defeated, stating the ruling alliance was in large number to prove majority. Announcing the decision, the Speaker adjourned the house but it led to another unprecedented development-the Congress MLAs launched an indefinite dharna inside the House. Exploiting the issue to the maximum, the Opposition played on the reach of the social media. Opting not to depend upon the print and electronic media, the Congress MLAs kept on posting each and every activity on facebook, twitter and Whatsapp, which included their teeth brushing, having dinner and sleeping on floor and seats inside the House.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal visited the Congress MLAs but they declined accepting his request to call off dharna and move along with him unless the debate on ‘defeated bill’is announced, to which the 87-year-old Chief Minister feigned his inability stating that it was right of Speaker only. Finally, on the last day of the session, the Congress MLAs, some even in their night dresses, crossed all limits in disgracing the Vidhan Sabha as they not only kept raising anti-speaker and anti-government slogans throughout but also threw papers and booklets on the Speaker in a consistent manner. Putting the whole watch and ward staff on duty to protect the Speaker and Vidhan Sabha Secretary, a Congress MLA Tarlochan Singh Soondh hurled a shoe at Cabinet Minister Bikram Singh Majithia, which put everyone under shock.

The development also led to some abusive exchange between the ruling and opposition legislators but the speaker opted to remain silent on the issue and ensured 21 bills (with amendments) get through the process for it being the last sitting to complete the legislative business of the state. Ultimately, when the House got adjourned sine die, the speaker termed it as the most unfortunate day of his ‘60 years’ political life.’ Unwilling to listen to him post-session, a majority of the politically educated people of the state now blame the Speaker equally at fault, saying that he too failed in performing his duty to uphold the dignity of the august chair.

Various other incidents, like throwing the Ludhiana MLA brothers Simrajit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains out of the House for raising voice against the state’s gesture of releasing ‘uncharged’ river water to Rajasthan, are also been looked at with different perspectives. Disallowing Jalandhar MLA Pargat Singh, who after resigning from the SAD, wanted to speak in the House as Independent, is also one of the major happenings of the session which are being discussed in the state now. The unprecedented disorderliness, unleashed by some over-enthusiastic members of the House, showed the legislatures’ collective failure to uphold the minimal standards of decorum and grace, is general observation now. Though the SAD MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha claimed that Speaker gave more opportunity to the Congress, the latter is now also accused of facilitating the government in hurriedly completing the legislative business.

Notably, in the aftermath of ‘shoegate’, the Congress tried to cover it up claiming that Tarlochan Soondh hurled it towards Virsa Singh Valtoha, not Bikram Majithia, and that too in reaction to his alleged remarks against Dalit Community. On the other, Akalis defused their claim, stating that there was huge difference in the seating arrangement of the two Akali legislators, with further demanding breach of privilege motion against the Congress legislators. Whatever the outcome of this ‘tug-of-the-war’ comes, it is established that the kind of classic disgracefulness the House this time certainly calls for a serious introspection by all legislators. As the masses send them to Vidhan Sabha with high hopes it was the duty of our elected representatives to maintain the dignity of the House as the electorate wants this constitutional institution survive with magnificence.