After conducting the ‘last session’ of 14th Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday that was summoned in emergency to deal with the legislative business of water sharing issues, Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal shares his overall experience with DailyPost Assistant Editor Rajay Deep. Here are excerpts of the conversation:
How much legislative business was done in this Vidhan Sabha since formed in 2012?
We held 76 sittings in total, excluding the Governor’s address. During the period as many as 184 bills were passed in the House.
Are you satisfied with the number of sittings?
Of course not. It’s far lesser than the requirement. I have seen the sessions which used to last for even a month but now the trend is changing with each passing year.
What is the reasoning?
There are two main reasons, I have observed. At first, our MLAs are least interested in coming to the House after doing some serious home works so that they can raise issues of people’s interest effectively. In the absence of proper knowledge of the system and procedures, their presence is lost in shouting and grabbing the media attention only. Secondly, Vidhan Sabha now has constituted various committees to deal with different subject matters and most of the legislative business gets filtered at the level of those committees as well.
Are you against the formation of such committees?
No, not at all. Rather I would like to appreciate the system as at the committees level all concerned members get proper time to explain their points whereas in Vidhan Sabha session most of the discussion time is consumed by the senior leaders only.
If MLAs lack proper knowledge, can you suggest any other option to run the House in a better way?
This is very simple. We need to hold special refresher courses where the members will learn how to maintain decorum and take up the issues of their respective Vidhan Sabha in the House. It will help the state in resolving public grievances in a much better and smooth way.
What kind of cooperation you got from political parties in this tenure?
Barring one incident that took place during the last session, overall it was a nice experience. The SAD-BJP alliance cooperated in every aspect. The Congress was also quite okay for the initial two years but later their attitude changed. I guess they all got split into groups within and many times I have realised that some of their members were not willing for staging walk-out but were forced to do so against their will.
Can you explain that one incident which hurt you the most?
It hurt me so deep that I would like to term it as the saddest day of my political carrier. The Congress MLAs created ruckus in the House during the legislative business. They threw paper balls and booklets on me. They kept on raising slogans in disrespect of the chair. Then they held dharna in the Vidhan Sabha for two nights without valid demand. It overall lowered the grace of the House.
Any moment which you can term as the happiest day of your tenure?
It was the day in 2012 when I entered the Vidhan Sabha for the second time as Speaker.
Are you satisfied with your performance?
It’s a question that should be asked from the members of the Assembly. I can only say that I put my best to get the treasury benches’ legislations passed which is the Speaker’s foremost duty, with also keeping the Opposition along. Except a few instances, I managed to ensure that the bills were passed with unanimity. Being on the chair, I always tried to be impartial, neutral and independent.
All Congress MLAs and four others tendered resignations in your tenure. What’s your take on it?
It had nothing to do with the Speaker. They all tendered resignations for different reasons. If Congress MLAs submitted resignations, it was against the SYL canal decision in the Supreme Court. The others did quit for switching over party loyalties and also to gain publicity. I understand the game plans very well. Those members resigned did it just at the fag end of the current Vidhan Sabha hoping that it could help them gaining sympathy. Anyways, public knows such gimmicks.
How do you look at the Special Session called on water sharing issues?
We passed two resolutions moved by the ruling alliance and the House unanimously directed the state government, Cabinet and all officers to not follow any direction or initiate any move which is meant for the construction of SYL canal. Secondly, the state government has been directed to recover the charges of river water flowing to the non-Riperian states.
Do you think these directions will stand in the court of law?
Vidhan Sabha does the legislative job, which we have completed. It is now up to the executive body to get it implemented. The third pillar of democracy judiciary will interpret in its own way. However, as per my experience, there is no hindrance in getting things done if the state government is committed to implementing the directions in the interest of the state.
This time the SAD has opted for your son rather than allotting the ticket to you. Any remark?
We are thankful to the SAD leadership for giving one ticket to us. And as it is allotted to my son, I am much happier this time. I have served the party for decades and in return, the party has also sent me to places which I had never dreamt of. It is the wise move of the party chief to field the young generation after analysing their poll prospects. Having long experience of politics I can say that the SAD-BJP will form the government for the third consecutive term on the basis of development in the state.
For more news updates Follow and Like us on Facebook