Punjab: Bill to save Capt’s six advisers from disqualification clears House hurdle

Kanchan Vasdev
Aam Aadmi Party MLAs stage a walkout from Vidhan Sabha protesting against The Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2019, on Thursday. (Express)

A vociferous opposition and a walkout notwithstanding, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Thursday passed a Bill to keep six ruling Congress MLAs appointed as advisers to the chief minister out of the ambit of the office-of-profit category thereby protecting them from disqualification.

The Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2019, was presented in the House by Cabinet minister Brahm Mohindra on the concluding day of the special session of the Vidhan Sabha here. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was not present in the House on Thursday.

Speaker Rana Kanwarpal Singh passed the Bill by voice vote. The Bill would now be sent to the Governor for his nod.

With this amendment, six Congress legislators - Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Kuljit Singh Nagra, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Kushaldeep Dhillon and Tarsem Singh DC - will not be disqualified for holding the office of profit.

Punjab government had accorded on five them rank and status of a cabinet minister. Four MLAs — Dhillon, Raja Warring, Gilzian and Bolaria - were designated as political advisers while Nagra and DC were appointed as the adviser (planning).

The Bill, once enacted, will exclude them from the ambit of The Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952.

Immediately after Mohindra tabled the Bill, the Leader of Opposition and AAP member Harpal Singh Cheema criticised the move saying it violated provisions of the Constitution and put additional burden on the exchequer. Demanding the withdrawal of the Bill, Cheema said how would the state government bear the financial burden on account of these appointments when it had “no money” to fulfil its poll promises and pay pending dearness allowance of its employees. He said Finance Minister Manpreet often laments the cash crunch.

Raising slogans against the government, members of the AAP trooped into the Well before staging a walkout.

Shiromani Akali Dal member Parminder Singh Dhindsa, said the propose law was against the 91st amendment to the Constitution, which stated that the total number of ministers should not exceed 15 per cent of the total strength of the state assembly. “The state government brought this law to make its favourites happy. If they are so capable, then the government should have made them ministers,” said Dhindsa, demanding the withdrawal of the Bill.

He further said the legislation was not “legally tenable”.

Lok Insaaf Party’s Simarjeet Singh Bains pointed out that the state had a debt burden of Rs 2.50 lakh crore and was unable to pay salary to its employees.

Intervening in the debate, Warring, claimed that the move would entail no additional burden on the exchequer. “If there is a burden in future, I will never return to this Assembly,” he said.

He said the SAD had spent a huge sum of money on choppers during their regime. The AAP MLAs, Warring said, availed the facility of car and gunmen after it came to power in Delhi despite the fact they had been opposing the same earlier.

He also entered a heated argument with Bains brothers - Simarjeet and Balvinder - saying they had taken around Rs 34 lakh in reimbursements from the state government.

Nagra, too, defended his appointment saying he would not take a single penny from the government. He said that he was the only MLA who was paying Rs 80,000 every year from his pocket towards Income Tax even as the state government paid the same for all the other legislators.

Only a few days ago, the six advisers were allotted offices and staff in the Civil Secretariat.

Warring-Bains brothers in war of words outside House

Bains brothers at Vidhan Sabha on Thursday. (Express)

After the House was adjourned sine die, a heated argument took place between Congress’s Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and the LIP’s Bains brothers - Simarjeet and Balvinder. Warring was joined by other Congress MLAs, including Balbir Singh Sidhu, Kulbeer Zira and Khushaldeep Singh Dhillon. The heated argument could have turned ugly had the ministers including Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Balbir Sidhu not intervened. Bajwa was seen pulling Warring away from Bains.