The issue of suspension of five Congress MLAs, including Leader of Opposition (LOP) Mukesh Agnihotri, from the Himachal Pradesh Assembly for the entire budget session for their gherao of Governor, Bandaru Dattatraya, on the first day of the budget session on 26 February, rocked the Assembly today.

Amid the demand by the Opposition Congress members to revoke the suspension of their five party MLAs and their allegation that the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government was responsible for the 26 February incident, there were heated exchanges between the Congress and the BJP MLAs, following which the Congress members staged a walkout from the House.

While Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur called it the “most unfortunate incident” in the history of the Himachal Assembly, which has “brought a bad name to the state in the entire country, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj told the Congress members to tender unconditional apology to the Governor for the “shameful act” if they wanted some dialogue on the issue.

Amid frayed tempers, there were arguments between Congress MLA Vikramaditya Singh and Deputy Speaker, Hans Raj, in the House when the Congress members alleged that Hans Raj had jostled the Congress MLAs, pushing them towards the passage from where the Governor was going.

Later, Hans Raj urged Speaker Vipin Singh Parmar for a privilege motion against Vikramaditya Singh for his conduct in the House.

“After the episode on the first day of the Assembly session, I am getting threatening calls from those associated with National Students Union of India (NSUI) and Congress party,” he alleged, seeking protection from the Speaker.

As soon as the House assembled for the day in the morning, Congress member Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu raised a point of order and demanded that the suspension of five Congress MLAs be revoked. He termed the action “illegal” and said the Congress was not at fault and if one goes by the sequence of events, the government was responsible for the incident. He said the government acted “undemocratically”.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the incident involving the Governor was “unprecedented and unfortunate”. “It has never happened in the past that a Leader of Opposition is leading in such an incident. We are elected for raising and discussing the public issues. We are not sent here for physical assault,” he said.

Bhardwaj said the Chief Minister and the entire Cabinet had apologized to the Governor the same day over the incident and the Congress members, including the LOP, should also follow suit.

On this, the Congress members started raising slogans and wanted to speak again, not listening to the Speaker’s requests to keep quiet and let the Question Hour begin.

After permission by the Speaker, however, senior Congress member, Asha Kumari said whatever the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said was not based on facts. She said the Congress members welcomed the Governor when he came for the address and when he spoke about the 50 years journey of HP’s statehood.

“We are proud of HP as the Congress party has a major contribution in its statehood and development,” she said.

Asha Kumari questioned the government as to why it did not inform the Congress in the All Party meeting that the Governor will cut short his address and why the Leader of Opposition and senior members were not invited to the tea gathering involving the Governor. “We did not do any gherao. Your members pushed us towards the Governor. The Chief Minister allowed everything to happen,” she charged.

She said the Congress members were not informed on time when the House resumed. She said they got an SMS at 12.46 PM that the House would resume at 12.50 PM.

She charged that the Deputy Speaker was jostling the Congress members all along.When the Deputy Speaker got up to speak, the Congress members started raising slogans and entered into heated arguments with him.The Chief Minister said Hans Raj had every right to speak and the entire government backed him. He condemned Vikramaditya Singh for shouting at the Deputy Speaker.

Later, the Speaker announced the Question Hour and while it was going on, the Congress members staged a walkout from the Assembly.