In an embarrassment to the AAP government in Punjab, Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday thwarted the Bhagwant Mann-led regime's plan to summon a special assembly session to bring a confidence motion.
The governor withdrew an earlier order calling the special session on Thursday, saying it had sought legal opinion after the Congress and the BJP approached him arguing that the House rules did not allow it.
How did AAP leaders react to the decision?
Following the governor's decision, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann called a meeting of AAP MLAs on Thursday morning in the Assembly complex to decide the next course of action.
AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal and Mann slammed the governor for not allowing the special session, saying it raises a big question on the country's democracy. The opposition parties hailed Purohit for preventing the state government from "sabotaging the constitutional and legislative practices and procedures".
Kejriwal hit out at the governor. "How can the governor refuse a session called by the cabinet? Then democracy is over," the Delhi chief minister said in a tweet in Hindi.
राज्यपाल कैबिनेट द्वारा बुलाए सत्र को कैसे मना कर सकते हैं? फिर तो जनतंत्र खतम है— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) September 21, 2022
दो दिन पहले राज्यपाल ने सत्र की इजाज़त दी। जब ऑपरेशन लोटस फ़ेल होता लगा और संख्या पूरी नहीं हुई तो ऊपर से फ़ोन आया कि इजाज़त वापिस ले लो
आज देश में एक तरफ़ संविधान है और दूसरी तरफ़ ऑपरेशन लोटस। pic.twitter.com/BHwuyUG23X
His Punjab counterpart Mann said, "The governor not allowing the Assembly to run raises big questions on the country's democracy."
राज्यपाल द्वारा विधानसभा ना चलने देना देश के लोकतंत्र पर बड़े सवाल पैदा करता है... अब लोकतंत्र को करोड़ों लोगों द्वारा चुने हुए जनप्रतिनिधि चलाएंगे या केंद्र सरकार द्वारा नियुक्त किया हुआ एक व्यक्ति... एक तरफ भीमराव जी का संविधान और दूसरी तरफ ऑपरेशन लोटस...जनता सब देख रही है... https://t.co/XWWqs2FYzj— Bhagwant Mann (@BhagwantMann) September 21, 2022
AAP leader and cabinet minister Aman Arora dubbed the governor's move "murder of democracy" and expressed surprise that Purohit withdrew his order of calling the session "at the instance of three opposition leaders".
Arora claimed that from 1952 till 2009, 27 no-confidence motions and 12 confidence motions were moved in Parliament by different parties.
"By withdrawing orders regarding summoning of PVS Session for Motion of Confidence, Governor of Punjab is acting like a Viceroy & trying to undermine the democratically elected government. It also shows Cong & BJP are hand in glove to make 'Op Lotus' a success," Arora later tweeted.
All about the AAP-BJP feud
The special session was called by the Mann government amid a political slugfest with the BJP.
The AAP had sought to prove its majority through a confidence motion in the Assembly, days after it alleged that the BJP was trying to bring down its government in Punjab by poaching its MLAs.
The opposition BJP and the Congress had slammed the AAP move, accusing it of indulging in "theatrics" to divert attention of people from its "failures". They asked why the AAP needed to move a trust vote when nobody had claimed that it had lost majority in the House.
The governor had given permission on September 20 for summoning the special session on September 22. His latest order withdraws that permission.
"In absence of the specific rules regarding summoning of the assembly for considering the 'confidence motion' only called by the Punjab government on September 22, through special session of 16th Punjab Vidhan Sabha, I Banwarilal Purohit, Governor of Punjab, hereby withdraw my orders dated September 20, regarding summoning the 16th Vidhan Sabha of the state of Punjab to meet for its third (special) session at 11 am on Thursday, September 22, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha hall, Vidhan Bhavan, Chandigarh," the latest order read.
The BJP termed the governor's move an "appropriate and constitutional decision".
BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh accused the AAP of trying to use the assembly for its "selfish political purposes", claiming that its house of lies is crumbling and its credibility is falling.
Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma said the governor stopped the AAP government from setting "wrong precedents". "The country will not run on what (Arvind) Kejriwal says. After they tried to violate rules and procedure of Punjab Vidhan Sabha and tried to cross 'Lakhsman Rekha', the governor intervened and aptly played his role," he said.Seeking to counter the opposition claim that a session for moving confidence motion cannot be called, the minister claimed that the motion of confidence can be moved in the state assembly and cited an example of Parliament.
Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring also welcomed the governor's move for preventing the AAP government from "sabotaging the constitutional, democratic and legislative practices and procedures".
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and party leader Bikram Singh Majithia too hailed the governor's move, saying it will save crores of rupees of the state exchequer.
The governor's decision came after Congress leaders Partap Singh Bajwa and Sukhpal Singh Khaira, and BJP leader Sharma approached the Raj Bhavan, arguing that there was no legal provision to convene a special session just to move a 'confidence motion' in favour of the state government.
In a letter to the governor, Khaira had stated that there is provision only for a no-confidence motion under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Chapter XII Para 58(1) but not for any Motion of Confidence.
The Punjab Cabinet on Tuesday had approved the government's recommendation to be sent to the governor for summoning the special session of the House under Article 174 (1) of the Constitution of India.
In his order withdrawing permission for the special session, the governor said he took the decision after seeking legal advice from Additional Solicitor General of India Satya Pal Jain.
Jain gave his legal opinion that there is no specific provision regarding summoning of the Assembly for considering the "confidence motion" only, in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, a letter sent to the secretary of the Punjab Assembly by the Raj Bhavan read.
Earlier, the Punjab BJP had said it would boycott the special session summoned on September 22.
Addressing the media here, BJP leader Sharma had the AAP was just indulging in drama.
Slamming the ruling party for accusing the BJP of poaching its MLAs to topple the government, Sharma had said that the saffron party would 'gherao' the Assembly on Thursday.
The AAP had recently claimed that at least 10 of its MLAs were approached by the BJP with an offer of Rs 25 crore to each of them in a bid to topple the six-month-old government under its 'Operation Lotus.'
With 92 MLAs, the AAP has an overwhelming majority in the 117-member Punjab Assembly, while Congress has 18, SAD three, BJP two, and BSP one. The assembly also has an Independent member.
(With PTI Inputs)