Himachal assembly’s monsoon session off to stormy start as opposition walk outs

By, Shimla
Sep 19, 2023 03:34 AM IST

BJP legislators, the state government spared over disaster relief measures on the first day of Himachal assembly’s monsoon session

The monsoon session of state assembly got off to a stormy start, with the opposition party legislators staging a walk-out. The same came after a back-and-forth over the disaster relief efforts in the wake of devastating rainfall that wreaked havoc in Himachal in July and August.

BJP legislators, led by leader of the opposition Jairam Thakur, staging a walkout at Vidhan Sabah in Shimla, Himachal. (Deepak Sansta/HT )
BJP legislators, led by leader of the opposition Jairam Thakur, staging a walkout at Vidhan Sabah in Shimla, Himachal. (Deepak Sansta/HT )

The government, under Rule 102, sought to urge the Centre to declare the situation a “national disaster” — a proposition that was accepted for discussion.

Meanwhile, the opposition, under Rule 67, attempted to bring forward a motion to halt all legislative activities to discuss the disaster’s impact. Their proposal, however, was not accepted by speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania and the same resulted in an uproar in the assembly, with Bharatiya Janata Party legislators walking out in protest before returning later.

Chief minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu expressed frustration over the opposition’s actions, saying that the government was actively engaged in relief work and highlighting that the opposition was quick to walk out after having demanded the assembly session.

Sukhu accused the BJP of prioritising theatrics over genuine concern for disaster management, emphasising that the speaker had approved the opposition’s demand for discussion, but called on them to cooperate.

The CM said all state ministers were actively participating in relief efforts, including the restoration of connectivity to the isolated Kullu-Manali region. He said 295 tourists had been rescued from Chandratal, preventing a potentially catastrophic accident before criticising the opposition for not contributing their one-month salary to the relief fund.

In response, BJP members of legislative assembly (MLA) Rakesh Jamwal and Vipin Parmar argued that Rule 67 was necessary to discuss the extensive damage and loss of life caused by the natural disaster, stressing that all legislative work should be halted for the purpose.

Speaker Pathania, however, ruled that since both Rule 102 and Rule 67 addressed similar issues and the government’s earlier proposal under the former would take precedence and be discussed. The decision led to the eventual walk-out.

Parliamentary affairs minister Harshwardhan Chauhan accused the opposition of politically-motivated intentions behind their proposal under Rule 67. He stressed the government’s dedication to address the disaster and reiterated that the government also sought discussion on the issue.

Biggest tragedy of the century: Jairam

Dubbing the disaster “the biggest tragedy of the century”, leader of the opposition in the House, Jairam Thakur reiterated the call to halt all legislative work to discuss the matter comprehensively. He alleged that the government’s intentions behind their Rule 102 proposal were suspect and urged the acceptance of the opposition’s Rule 67 proposal.

He emphasised the dire situation faced by thousands who were left homeless due to the disaster and called for a discussion that transcended the bounds of parliamentary rules.

With sparring factions, the fate of discussions on disaster relief remains uncertain.

Resolution urges Centre to declare HP floods ‘national disaster’

Sukhu also moved a resolution in the assembly urging the Centre to declare the recent calamity in the state a ‘national disaster’.

“The government declared the entire state as calamity hit on August 18 and I appeal to the Union Government to immediately declare it as a national calamity and give a special relief package to the state as relief and restoration is not possible without liberal assistance from the centre,” said the chief minister.

The magnitude of the disaster is equivalent to the 2001 Bhuj earthquake, 2013 Kedarnath calamity and land sinking at Joshimath in 2022 and we expect a similar package for the state, he said.

Moving the resolution, Sukhu said that destruction was unprecedented but the state government faced the challenge boldly and besides restoring the services like water and power supply and opening roads, rescued the stranded people from inaccessible areas and also provided them relief.


    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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