The issue of suspension of five Congress legislators for the entire Budget Session rocked the Himachal Pradesh Assembly on Tuesday as the treasury benches and Congress MLAs engaged in heated exchanges of words.
The Congress also staged a walkout from the State Assembly seeking the revocation of the suspension of its five MLAs including the Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri while the demand was strongly opposed by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur who said “manhandling” of the Governor is an “unpardonable” act.
Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and four other Congress MLAs Harsh Vardhan Chauhan, Satpal Raizada, Sunder Singh and Vinay Kumar were suspended on Friday for the entire budget session of the Assembly till March 20 after they allegedly manhandled Governor Bandaru Dattatraya.
The alleged incident had taken place outside the Speaker’s office when the Governor was leaving for the Raj Bhavan after he cut short his address in the House following a ruckus on the opening day of the budget session.
Speaker Vipin Parmar had also lodged a complaint with police in this regard.
As soon as the House assembled on Tuesday morning, Congress MLA Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu demanded revocation of suspension of five party MLAs. He termed the action illegal and said that the Congress was not at fault and “if one goes by the sequence of events, the government is responsible for the incident”.
He also said the government has acted in an undemocratic manner.
Sukhu also claimed that Deputy Speaker Hansraj and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj had manhandled the Congress MLAs on Friday. If their suspension is not revoked, the proceedings of the House will not be allowed to run, he added.
Reacting to this, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said “manhandling” the Governor is “unbearable and unpardonable”.
Mentioning that no one is above law, Thakur said the entire episode has been captured by several cameras. The Leader of Opposition hit the bonnet of the Governor’s car while other Congress MLAs shouted “Governor bhag gaya, Governor bhag gaya” (Governor has run away, Governor has run away), he said.
The Congress MLAs also “manhandled” the Governor’s ADC. The incident took place when the Governor’s family members had come to watch the House proceedings and their faces blenched, he added.
Continuing his tirade against the Congress, the Chief Minister said that the Congress resorted to such an act as it has lost its political ground.
Thakur further said he and his entire cabinet apologised to the Governor for the incident but the opposition has no shame.
Further defending the action by the Deputy Speaker, the Chief Minister said the entire government is with him. He did what he should have done in such circumstances, he added.
Amid the ruckus, there was also a verbal clash between Congress member Vikramaditya Singh and Deputy Speaker Hansraj, after the Congress members alleged that the latter had jostled Congress MLAs, pushing them towards the passage from where the Governor was passing.
After the Congress walkout, the Deputy Speaker said he wants protection from the House as he is receiving threats from the Congress student wing NSUI and its “goons”.
Earlier in the day, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj said the suspended Congress MLAs should tender an unconditional apology to the Governor. Subsequently, the issue of their suspension may be discussed, he said.
On the Chief Minister’s request, the Speaker initiated the proceedings of the question hour at 11.55 am after the Congress staged a walkout from the House.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA Asha Kumari termed the proceedings of the special meeting of the Assembly regarding the episode on Friday afternoon illegal as it had been called at a notice of four minutes, which is against the rules.
Asha Kumari said no Congress MLA tried to stop the Governor on his way to his car from the Speaker’s office. On the contrary, the Deputy Speaker and the Parliamentary Affairs Minister pushed the Congress MLAs, she said.
The suspended Congress MLAs continued their dharna outside the House on the second day consecutively against the suspension and registration of an FIR against them.