As chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has deputed cabinet colleague Brahm Mohindra to chair an all-party meeting of parliamentarians of Punjab on Wednesday, his party Congress’s two Rajya Sabha members — Shamsher Singh Dullo and Partap Singh Bajwa — have declared not to attend.

Predictably, opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has also announced a boycott while two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MPs will not attend even as its two suspended members will be there at the meeting scheduled to be held at Punjab Bhawan in Chandigarh.

At the centre of the episode is Bajwa, Amarinder’s bete noire within the Congress, who had said in an interview that he would raise issues regarding dissatisfaction with the state government at this meeting. Dullo, another leader who does not have a pleasant equation with Amarinder, too had said the government that took over in March should fulfil promises made in the manifesto. Then, HT on November 6 reported that the CM will stay away and the meeting will be chaired by Mohindra, second in seniority after him.

Brahm Mohindra and Amarinder Singh (HT File)

‘Totally disillusioned’

Now, Bajwa told HT over the phone, “Today, I am totally disillusioned with government. I will not be going to attend a meeting that is being chaired by a minister and not by the CM. I have to take up issues that relate to Punjab and only the CM can take a decision.” For instance, he said, “How can Brahm Mohindra take a decision on fixing prices of sugarcane?”

“I was waiting to remind the CM about promises including action against SAD leaders Bikram Majithia, Sukhbir Badal, Tota Singh and Adaish Partap Kairon. And why is (finance minister) Manpreet Badal not issuing a department-wise white paper on the loot committed by the SAD-BJP regime in the last 10 years?” he said, adding that he would wait for another meeting.

‘Lacks courtesy’

Dullo, a former state Congress chief like Bajwa, said over the phone, “The invitation to the meeting lacks courtesy. CM hi CM hunde, koi hor nahi meeting lai sakda (Only the CM is the CM; no one else can chair such a meeting). ... I am a dignified person, and will not got to a meeting for which basic courtesy is not extended.”

SS Dullo (HT File)

He said he will “not like to comment on working of the government in the media”, but added, “I would remind the CM about poll promises of ‘ghar ghar naukri’ (jobs), unemployment allowance, and fulfilment of a pledge that the CM took at Bathinda by placing his hand on a holy book. The farm loan waiver is still on paper, and similar is the story of enhancement of pensions and Shagun scheme. I prepared a list, but now will not attend the meeting as the CM is not attending it.”

Regarding raising issues in the Rajya Sabha, he said, “I am already doing that, since before there was a Congress government in Punjab.”

Sources said another Rajya Sabha MP, Ambika Soni, will not attend, while state unit chief and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar will be there, as would be other Lok Sabha MPs of the Congress.

Akalis take dig

As for the SAD, its line is that Brahm Mohindra lacks the seniority to chair the meeting. SAD’s Lok Sabha MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said in Patiala, “It seems the CM is not concerned with Punjab’s issues. That’s why he twice postponed this meeting, and now a new communication says that Brahm Mohindra will chair it. How can Mohindra take a decision which is in the domain of the CM? The meeting is against protocol and the dignity of MPs.”

“First, the meeting was supposed to be held on November 6. Then we were informed that the meeting has been rescheduled for November 15 as the chief minister was busy. We again got a message that the meeting has been rescheduled for November 14. But again, it was changed to November 15,” he said.

Prem Singh Chandumajra (HT File)

He went on to allege that Amarinder is “attempting a secret pact with Haryana over the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link) canal, and only he can tell the reality over it”. “As he is aware that the SAD will question it, he decided not to take the meeting.”

BJP MP and Union minister Vijay Sampla will not attend as he is occupied with prior engagement, party secretary Vineet Joshi told news agency PTI.

AAP split

AAP’s Lok Sabha MP from Sangrur and state unit chief Bhagwant Mann simply said, “We are not going to attend the meeting.”

But the party has four LS MPs here, of whom two have all but parted ways with it and remain suspended. Those two — Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa — will attend.

Dharamvira Gandhi (HT File)

Gandhi said it was his idea to have such a meeting: “I am going to attend as it is a noble initiative by the CM to collectively raise issues of the state in Parliament. It was my idea, which (previous CM) Parkash Singh Badal didn’t implement, but Amarinder Singh has decided to hold a meeting before every session. I have to take up the matter of Chandigarh-Rajpura rail link to connect Malwa; besides pollution and other issues.”