Cong govt, BJP attack each other as Assembly discusses de-notification row

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Shimla, Mar 15 (PTI) Heated exchanges were witnessed during a debate in the Himachal Assembly on Wednesday on the closure of institutions opened under the BJP rule, with Leader of Opposition Jai Ram Thakur warning the Congress government that the move will set a bad precedent and all its decisions might be reviewed in future.

In his reply, Chief Sukhvinder Singh Shuku said that closed institutions would be opened on a need-basis and attacked the previous BJP government, accusing it of not making proper provisions for these institutions The BJP had given notice for an adjournment motion under Rule 67 for discussing the issue and Shukhu criticised the Opposition, accusing it of "undermining" the sanctity and importance of the rule, but agreed to the debate which was initiated by former BJP minister Sukh Ram Chowdhary.

In his reply, the chief minister said that the closed institutions would be opened on a need basis and the government has already opened some offices where these were necessary.

“De-notifying the institutions and offices after April 2022 was a policy decision and now decisions are also being taken to reopen the institutions on need basis”, Sukhu said.

He repeated his charge against the previous government that it opened institutions without any budgetary provision, appointment of staff and other infrastructure.

He said that in spite of the fact that 12,000 posts of teachers were lying vacant, a large number of schools were opened on political considerations.

“The government would first fill the vacant posts and then open new institutions as 4,145 schools are running with only one teacher and 455 schools are without a teacher.

"The previous government made provision of only Rs 1 lakh each for 23 newly opened colleges and out of 140 health institutions opened by the BJP government, sanction from the finance department was obtained for nine only,” he said.

Dissatisfied by the chief minister's reply, BJP members left the House.

The BJP has "not been able to reconcile to its defeat in the elections and the arguments of its members during the debate lacked logic," Parliamentary Affairs minister Harshwardhan said, adding leaving the House has "exposed their frustration".

The Speaker said the notice given under Rule 67 (8) cannot be taken up as it is sub-judice and has been challenged in the High Court. He said it is not an emergent issue.

However, as the Opposition remained adamant about its demand for debate, the Speaker suspended the listed business to allow it.

Initiating the debate, Sukh Ram Chaudhary raised the issue of the closure of 632 institutions. He said that Himachal was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for two years and the institutions were opened in the last year in public interest.

He pointed out that 90-95 percent of the 350 institutions opened by the Congress government (2012-17) at the fag end of its tenure were made functional by the BJP government.

BJP leader Jai Ram Thakur attacked the government, claiming it is not in a position to implement the ten guarantees the Congres had given during polls.

It said the situation of the three-month-old government was similar to a four-year-old government.

Cautioning the government against closing the institutions, Thakur said that it would cost heavily as in future all decisions of the government after December 11, 2022 would be reviewed.

"The government should open the institutions if it wants to avoid such a situation," he said and challenged the Congress MLAs to give in writing that the institutions closed by the government were not required.

Joining the debate, Rajesh Dharmani (Congress) said rather than improving governance and financial condition of the state after the defeat in by-elections to three assembly constituencies and Mandi parliament seat in 2021, the BJP opened the institutions and facilities to woo the voters.

Dharmali said that 119 out of 155 government colleges in the state were without a regular principal and 907 animals out of 1,062 lodged in Gau Sadan in Jawalamukhi had died.

Jeet Ram Katyal (BJP) said that Himachal had the best track in Covid management, while I D Lakhanpal (Congress) said that the double-engine government of the BJP has not given anything to the state.

Former deputy Speaker and BJP MLA Hans Raj questioned why six chief Parliamentary Secretaries have been appointed if the state is going through a financial crunch.

Citing examples of his assembly constituency Churah, he claimed that there were no funds for the restoration works and opening of roads after snowfall.

He threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike if the institutions closed in his constituency are not opened.  PTI/BPL RT RT