In Punjab, another Congress MLA hits out at own govt

Kanchan Vasdev
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh (File/Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

The voices of dissent from within the Congress against its own government is getting louder in Punjab with an MLA now threatening to stage a dharna at the residence of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh if the development works in his constituency do not begin soon.

Nirmal Singh, who represents Shutrana Assembly seat, claimed that no development works were taking place in his constituency, corruption was ailing the state and people were asking him questions.

“Out of so many projects promised for my constituency by the CM and Patiala MP Preneet Kaur, nothing has fructified. People of my constituency want an answer. I am either going to get the works done or will resign,” Nirmal Singh told The Indian Express.

Shutrana Assembly segment falls under Patiala Parliamentary constituency.

He said when as an opposition MLA for 10 years, he would get away by telling people that he was not part of the government. “What should I say now? I have no answer. They tell me to either fulfill the promises or resign. I have given an ultimatum to the government to either get the work done or I will sit on a dharna in front of the CM’s residence from January 1,” he said.

Nirmal Singh was first elected from the constituency as a Shiromani Akali Dal candidate in 2002 Assembly polls when the Congress had formed the government in state. In 2007, he retained the seat as a Congress nominee, but the government then was formed by the SAD-BJP alliance. He lost the seat in 2012 elections, before winning again in 2017.

The legislator said that he had approached the state officials several times but they did not pay any heed to his demands.

Nirmal Singh claimed that the tehsildars demand a brine of Rs 15,000 for registration of land sale deed. “I called up the Tehsildar and asked him to register the land sale deed of a party worker without the bribe. The Tehsildar later gave the party worker a “discount” of Rs 5,000. In my government, the value of an MLA is Rs 5,000,” he alleged.

Nirmal Singh claimed that his constituency was promised a technical college, a park, a mandi plinth for Patran, and a Block Samiti office. “But nothing has been done. No development work is going on in my area and the only reason behind this is its neglect by the government and the bureaucracy. I will not keep quiet. When we want to meet the seniors they are not available. Where should we go?” he asked.

He is the fourth Congress legislator to have raised a voice against the state government and the bureaucracy for allegedly neglecting elected representatives.

On November 20, Congress MLAs Hardial Singh Kamboj (Rajpura), Rajinder Singh (Samana) and Madan Lal Jalalapur (Ghanaur) had publicly spoken against the police department and district officials at a meeting in Patiala. Rajinder Singh had even accused a police official of tapping his phone calls.

The constituencies of these three legislators too are part of the Patiala parliamentary seat.

On Sunday, these three MLAs had accompanied Preneet Kaur to Nurmehal in a government helicopter. Forest Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, who is also MLA from Nabha, was also present. The development was seen as a move to pacify the legislators.

On Monday, Jalalpur extended his support to Nirmal Singh claiming that he too would sit at dharna with the Shutrana MLA in front of the CM’s residence. “What does a chopper ride mean? We went to attend a function at Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan at Nurmehal,” he said.

The dissent in the Congress has come to fore at a time when the CM was abroad. Amarinder Singh, who was in UK, decided to cut short his visit and was to land in India Monday night. He is likely to attend the special Vidhan Sabha session being held on Constitution Day on Tuesday.

Nirmal Singh said he would raise the issue in the Vidhan Sabha and ask whether the Constitution allows an MLA to question the bureaucrats or not.

Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said the party has taken a serious view of the accusations by its legislators and will ensure that there was no laxity on the part of any government official in carrying out development works.

“We will take a feedback from party MLAs and ensure there is no laxity in carrying out development works,” he said.