Chandigarh: The Punjab Assembly on Friday passed a resolution seeking immediate transfer of Chandigarh to the state, with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann accusing the Centre of trying to upset the balance in the administration of the Union Territory and other common assets.
The resolution, which was moved by Mann, was passed by the House in the absence of the two BJP legislators, who had earlier staged a walkout.
Except the BJP, members of all political parties including the AAP, Congress, SAD and the lone BSP legislator came out in support of the resolution and dubbed the Centre's move as dictatorial and autocratic.
The one-day special session comes amid a political row sparked by Union Home Minister Amit Shah's announcement that central service rules will apply to the employees of Chandigarh.
Under the rules, retirement age of Chandigarh employees will increase from 58 to 60 years and women employees will get childcare leave of two years instead of the current one year.The Centre has notified the rules.
Chandigarh is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.
Mann said in the coming days, they will seek time from the president, the prime minister and the Union home minister over this issue and assured the House that Punjab's side will be strongly put up before them.He urged all parties to come together to protect the interests of Punjab.
Alluding to the similar positions taken by previous state governments on Chandigarh, he said the House has in the past too passed a number of resolutions urging the Central government to transfer Chandigarh to Punjab.
I want to give a guarantee to the people of Punjab that we will strongly fight and protect state's rights, be it in the Vidhan Sabha or Parliament or on any other platform, said Mann.
The Speaker named Independent MLA Rana Inder Partap Singh for repeatedly interrupting the CM in the House.
Earlier moving the resolution, Mann asked the Centre to honour the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution and not to take any steps which may disturb the balance of the administration of Chandigarh and that of other common assets.
"Punjab was reorganised through the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 wherein, the state of Punjab was reorganised into the state of Haryana, Union Territory of Chandigarh and some parts of Punjab were given to the then Union Territory of Himachal Pradesh," the resolution stated.
"Since then a balance was maintained in the administration of common assets like Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), by way of giving management positions in some proportion to nominees of states of Punjab and Haryana. Through many of its recent actions the Centre has been trying to upset this balance, it said.
The Centre has advertised the posts of members of BBMB to officers of all states and central government, whereas these posts were traditionally filled up by officers from Punjab and Haryana. Similarly, Chandigarh administration has always been managed by officers of Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 60:40, the resolution said.
"However, recently central government has posted officers from outside to Chandigarh and has introduced central civil service rules for employees of Chandigarh administration, which goes completely against the understanding in the past," it said.
"Chandigarh city was created as the capital of Punjab. In all past precedents whenever a state has been divided, the capital remain with the parent sate. Punjab, therefore, has been laying its claim for complete transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab," the resolution stated.
"For maintaining harmony and taking the sentiments of people into account, this House once again recommends to the state government to raise the matter with Central government to immediately transfer Chandigarh to Punjab, it said.
"This House also requests the central government to honour the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution and not to take any steps which may disturb the balance of the administration of Chandigarh and that of other common assets like BBMB," it said.
Taking part in discussion after the resolution was moved, senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa said it is an extremely important matter and urged Mann to consult the Punjab Advocate General and explore all legal remedies available to the state.
He also requested the state government to take up the issue with the prime minister and Union home minister.
Bajwa took strong objection to Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema charging successive Congress governments with neglecting the state's interests.
Congress MLA Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa asked the Bhagwant Mann-led government to take this fight forward while stating that the entire House was with the ruling party.
People of Punjab gave you (AAP) a massive mandate. You have to take this fight forward.We are all with you. Whatever is needed to protect Punjab's interests, we are with you, he said.
AAP legislator Aman Arora accused the Centre of giving a step-motherly treatment to Punjab while referring to the Centre's earlier decisions of enacting farm laws, (which were later repealed) and BSF issue (enhancing jurisdiction of the Border Security Force).
Arora targeted the Congress for not bringing this resolution during its 24-years regime in the state.
SAD MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali said he supported the government over the issue.
Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira described the Centre's recent move as absolutely erroneous, unilateral, dictatorial, undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Opposing the resolution, BJP MLA Ashwani Sharma said there was no violation of the rules of the Punjab Reorganisation Act.
He along with another BJP MLA Jangi Lal Mahajan walked out of the House after they were not allowed to speak.
AAP MLA Jeevan Jyot Kaur called the Centre's move an autocratic decision.
Shah's announcement on the rules on Sunday last had evoked sharp reactions from the AAP, Congress and SAD leaders, with many of them saying that this was "another big blow to the rights of Punjab" after changes in the BBMB rules.