Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal has sought a clarification from the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker on the status of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its MLAs in the state assembly after a split in the party that resulted in the creation of a new political outfit.
Speaking to reporters on the second day of the budget session Wednesday, former revenue minister and Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia said that one third of AAP MLAs have either turned rebels or have resigned from the party, which has led to a “constitutional quandary” in the Vidhan Sabha.
Majithia said that if the six rebel AAP MLAs are disqualified by Speaker Rana K.P. Singh, the party will lose the required numbers to remain the main opposition party in the assembly, and also its claim to the position of leader of the opposition.
He added that according to the Constitution, in case an MLA resigns from the primary membership of the party of which he was an MLA, his seat has to be declared vacant.
“The Speaker should have followed the process involved in declaring the seat vacant and made it clear to the House what is the status of these MLAs. The Speaker can disqualify seven legislators any time he chooses,” said Majithia.
Punjab Assembly Speaker is yet to make a decision on the fate of seven AAP MLAs, including senior advocate H.S. Phoolka who quit the party and the state assembly last month.
Of the 20 AAP MLAs in the 117-seat Punjab assembly, six turned rebels last year under the leadership of former leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira and created their own political outfit, Punjab Ekta Party.
Among the six, Khaira and Master Baldev Singh have resigned from the primary membership of the party. Khaira has also been suspended from AAP along with his supporter Kharar MLA, Kanwar Sandhu, who is also among the six.
The other four rebel leaders haven’t quit the party yet.
Apart from the rebel leaders, Phoolka also resigned from the party in January as also his seat in the Vidhan Sabha over the issue of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and the inability of the Punjab government to take action against the culprit.
What the Speaker has done
Phoolka has twice met Speaker reiterating his resignation from his seat in the assembly but Singh is yet to take a decision on it.
However, the Speaker has issued a notice to Khaira even though he is yet to disqualify the rebel leader.
Sources in the Speaker’s office say that in order to disqualify an MLA a certain procedure has to be followed, including hearing the MLA concerned, and that process takes some time.
Sources added that while the Constitution gives the Speaker the freedom to disqualify an MLA following his resignation from the primary membership of his party, ethics demanded that the Speaker wait for a letter from the party confirming that the MLA has indeed resigned from their party.
While Khaira and Master Baldev Singh are not attending the ongoing budget session, Phoolka is.
‘Congress using resignations’
Speaking to reporters, Majithia said, “I only want to ask one thing. Are these MLAs above the Constitution? How are they getting salary, house facility and security? Who will bear this expense eventually?
“They must answer these questions as they concern constitutional provisions as well as morality and ethics,” he added.
Former finance minister and Akali leader Parminder Singh Dhindsa said it seemed that the ruling Congress was keeping the decision on the resignations pending in order to ensure that AAP is unable to play its role of a strong opposition.
“The result is that the AAP is now behaving as the B team of the Congress and has decided not to corner the government on any issue. This was proved when the leader of the opposition Harpal Cheema refused to even demand extension of the budget session to debate burning issues of Punjab,” said Dhindsa.
‘Akali Dal should look within’
Responding to the Akali Dal allegations, Cheema said that the Akalis should put their own house in order first.
“We are taking action against the rebels and it is for our party to decide what to do with them,” said Cheema.
“It is complete falsehood that I did not ask for an extension of the budget session. The speaker had asked the Akalis if they were ready to face an extended session to which they never responded,” he added.