The Congress legislators on Thursday staged a walkout from the Himachal Pradesh Assembly after being denied a discussion on issues pertaining to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Schedule Tribes (STs) such as reservation, atrocities against them, and the BJP-ruled state government’s “non-utilisation of funds” sanctioned under the SC/ST component.

Congress MLAs, Jagat Singh Negi, Nand Lal, Mohan Lal Brakta and Col Dhani Ram Shandil, raised this matter on the floor of the House during Question Hour and demanded a debate on it under Rule 67.

Jagat Singh Negi said one-third of members in the legislative assembly belonged to SC, ST communities and demanded debate in assembly which was rejected by Speaker Vipin Singh Parmer.

Negi accused the ruling party of not wanting to discuss the issues related to the SC, ST community despite the fact that 32 percent of the population in the state belong to these two communities. “Atrocities being meted to the members of SC/ST communities in the state and the students from these communities are being segregated in classrooms across the state,” he added. The Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri too accused the state government of trying to suppress the voice of opposition and said Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and State Parliamentary Affair Minister Suresh Bhardwaj were dictating terms to the Speaker.

This led to heated arguments between the ruling and opposition party members after which Congress members staged walkout from the assembly. HP Assembly Speaker Vipin Singh Parmar said four opposition members had given notice for debate on SC, ST issues but there was no clarity neither it was backed by any facts. “But before listening to the chair on decision on the debate, the opposition members started raising questions of not being equal opportunity in the House.

Further, the debate can’t be held under Rule 67 but it can be clubbed with debate for which CPM member Rakesh Singha has given notice under Rule 130,” he added. He refuted the allegations of interference of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and State Parliamentary Affairs minister Suresh Bhardwaj in the proceedings of the House and said his office was open for everyone.

“The Chief Minister and Bhardwaj by virtue of portfolios they hold, has come to his office to discuss various issues and opposition members including the Leader of Opposition, too, visited his office to discuss various issues,” he added.