Sunday, March 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Oppn walkout on civic poll motion
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 29
Having first virtually extracted time for discussion on ''excesses'' during the municipal elections, resulting in ''thrashing and injuries'' to Akali-BJP councillors, the Opposition today failed to pin down the treasury benches which frustrated their attempts to cash in on the issue and literally forced them to walk out in protest from the Vidhan Sabha.

Moving the motion on the behalf of 16 MLAs, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal gave graphic accounts of what had happened during the civic elections across Punjab. He quoted from press clippings to hammer home the point as to how ''gross government interference and excesses'' were perpetrated by the police and civil administration during the recent elections to nagar panchayats/municipal councils/parishads, making Punjab scene look like Bihar.

The moot point of the Opposition was a demand for ''judicial inquiry'' into the entire gamut of civic elections. The minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, in his reply cleverly circumvented the real issues and engaged the Opposition in giving a lecture on democracy. Despite repeated interruptions, the opposition failed to elicit the desired response and reaction from him to their motion. The repeated pleas of the Deputy Speaker, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, asking the Akalis to resume their seats and show patience fell on deaf ears. Later, in protest, the members walked out shouting slogans.

In fact, rather than more of the Akali-BJP members speak cogently on the motion, the floor was dominated by vociferous Congressmen who provoked the Akalis, resulting in wordy duels. When some uncharitable remarks were made against the Badal family by Mr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, there were loud protests from the Akalis, led by Mr Manpreet Singh. They demanded that such remarks be expunged ,but the Deputy Speaker did not agree. The sum and substance of what the Congress speakers said was that what had happened during the municipal elections was neither new nor unexpected as such practices were first started by the Akalis.

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh dismissed the Akali allegations as ''concocted'' and ''pack of lies''. He, however, made a direct attack on Capt Kanwaljit Singh accusing him of being a ''compulsive mischief maker'', who invariably created ''hullar-bazi'' (trouble) in every election.

The Akalis charged the Congress government of making a mockery of electoral democracy, as was evident from the conduct of all elections from the Malout Assembly by-election down to the zila parishad/panchayat samiti elections to the SGPC presidential election to four municipal corporation elections and to the present civic elections. The Akalis accused the Congress of making bogus votes, cancelling genuine votes, rigging, booth capturing, tampering with the record of proceedings at the time of the election of the president or even postponing elections to favour Congressmen and violence.

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