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At Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh, Wednesday. When HS Phoolka tried to corner Navjot Singh Sidhu (C), no Congress MLA defended the local bodies and tourism minister. (Express photo: Kamleshwar Singh)

The ruling Congress came across as a house divided in the Vidhan Sabha on the second day of the ongoing Punjab Budget session with several MLAs being heard complaining about the poor floor strategy of the ruling party and thin attendance of the legislators.

Several Congress MLAs rued that the party has turned “complacent” with no strategy devised to take the fight to the opposition benches. Such strategy is normally planned and formalized in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting before the session. However, this time, the CLP meeting was not held before the Budget session began February 12. “Hence, the Congress, as a unit, lacked cohesiveness in the House,” said a party MLA requesting anonymity.

The second day of the session saw several Congress MLAs cornering the cabinet ministers over several issues, in what was seen as a major embarrassment for the Amarinder Singh government.

Senior Congress leaders, later in the day, raised a demand to issue a whip to the party members so that enough strength was ensured inside in case the government needed to defend itself.

Congress Chief Whip Hardyal Singh Kamboj, however, said no whip was being issued in writing. “But it is a routine practice for us to convey it to our colleagues that they should be present in the House till the session concludes,” he said.

On Wednesday, as soon as the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is the also the leader of the House, left the Assembly, most of the Congress members also followed suit. During the discussion on the Governor’s address in the latter part of the day, very few Congress members were seen present in the House.

When former Leader of Opposition HS Phoolka was hitting out at the government for not taking substantial action in the Bargari sacrilege and Behbal Kalan firing cases, nobody from the treasury benches defended the government.

Phoolka named Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu saying he had demanded strong action in the case, six months ago during a special session on Bargari sacrilege, but not much action was taken. Sidhu was present in the Assembly but no Congress leader defended him.

Earlier, former Minister Rana Gurjit Singh was seen visibly upset in the House. It is learnt that he was complaining about a lack of floor strategy. He, sources said was angry over the fact that when the Governor, during his address, was listing the government’s achievements, nobody from the treasury benches thumping the desk.