Punjab House calls for Chandigarh’s transfer
The controversy marks the first major flashpoint between Punjab’s new, Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government, and the BJP-ruled Centre. Chandigarh is the joint Capital of Punjab and Haryana, also a BJP-ruled state.
The Punjab assembly on Friday unanimously passed a resolution for the immediate transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab amid an ongoing tussle between the Centre and the state over control of the Union Territory, which serves as the capital of Punjab and neighbouring Haryana.
The resolution was passed by a voice vote in the absence of two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members, who had earlier opposed the resolution and staged a walkout. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rules Punjab and has an overwhelming majority in the assembly.
The move comes days after Union home minister Amit Shah announced that Central service rules will be applicable to employees of Chandigarh, instead of the Punjab service rules, sparking protests from AAP and the Punjab government.
In his notice for the resolution, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann said that under the Punjab Reorganisation Act 1966, the state of Punjab was reorganised into the state of Haryana, the Union Territory of Chandigarh and some parts of Punjab were given to the then Union Territory of Himachal Pradesh.
“Since then, a balance was mentioned in the administration of common assets like Bhakra Beas Management Board by way of giving management positions in some proportion to the nominees of state of Punjab and state of Haryana. Through many of its recent actions, the central government is trying to upset this balance,” he said.
The chief minister further pointed out that the Centre advertised the posts of members of Bhakra Beas Management Board, which were traditionally filled by officers from Punjab and Haryana, to officers of all states and the central government.
“Similarly, Chandigarh administration has always been managed by the officers of Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 60:40. However, recently, central government has posted outside officers to Chandigarh and introduced Central Civil Service Rules for the employees of Chandigarh administration, which goes completely against the understanding in the past,” he said in the notice.
While members of AAP, Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party supported the resolution, BJP member Ashwini Sharma opposed it. Sharma said the resolution aimed at misleading the innocent people of the state to cover up for the non-performance of successive governments.
Mann said in the coming days, the state government will seek time from the President, Prime Minister and 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.
“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 one-day special session comes amid a political row sparked by 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.Opposition parties in the state have alleged that this will dilute Punjab’s claim on Chandigarh and that it goes against the spirit of federalism.
AAP is also on a warpath with the central government in the other state it rules, Delhi, over a proposal to unify the Capital’s municipalities.
Earlier moving the resolution, Mann asked the Centre to honour the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution and not take any steps which may disturb the balance of the administration of Chandigarh and that of other common assets.
Senior Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa said it was 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 PM and home minister.
SAD lawmaker 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.