Shimla, Apr 5 (PTI) The Himachal Pradesh Assembly today passed a bill according Cabinet minister rank to the Chief Whip of the majority party and MoS status to his deputy, amidst stiff opposition by the Congress which said it was “unconstitutional” and in conflict with office-of-profit clauses.

The Salaries, Allowances and Other Benefits of the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip in the State Assembly of Himachal Pradesh Bill, 2018, was introduced in the assembly yesterday by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur.

It proposes that the Chief Whip would be entitled to receive salary and allowances admissible to a cabinet minister while the deputy chief whip would get salary and allowances on par with a minister of state.

A Chief Whip is an elected member of a party who is tasked with ensuring the party lawmakers follow the party discipline inside the legislature.

Congress Legislature Party Leader Mukesh Agnihotri criticised the move, saying it was aimed at political adjustment and that it will create a wrong precedent and may not stand a legal scrutiny.

He said the government must reconsider the Bill as it would amount to “bypassing” the Constitution.

There are already maximum 12 members in the Council of ministers in the state and if the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip also get status of cabinet and state ministers respectively, it may come under Office-of-Profit, he said.

He said a cabinet rank to the Chief Whip of a ruling party, whose work profile is not defined, would have a bearing on the stature of the deputy speaker, who has defined duties and enjoys the facilities of a state minister.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the Congress opposition to the bill was unwarranted.

Congress member from Shimla (Rural), Vikramaditya Singh said the BJP enjoys absolute majority in the house and warned it against “using this power to benefit your colleagues in ruling dispensation. Asha Kumari of the Congress said the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip are party posts. It is a question of convention, priority, propriety and morality. Congress members Ram Lal Thakur and Jagat Singh Negi asked the government to refer the Bill to a select committee. Harshwardhan Chauhan (Congress) withdrew his amendment wherein he had sought inclusion of the phrase “main opposition party” in the Bill. He termed the Bill a move to arrange back door entry for “political adjustments”.

The lone CPM member Rakesh Singh also opposed the Bill.

Defending the move, Sukhram Chaudhary of the BJP said the Congress was opposing the Bill now, while during its previous tenure, it had gone in for more than 45 chairmen and vice chairmen and nine Chief Parliamentary Secretaries. Our government has not appointed even one CPS, he said.

State’s Parliamentary Affairs minister Suresh Bhardwaj said the Bill did not violate any provision and was in accordance with law. He said the amendment moved by Harshwardhan Chauhan, which was later withdrawn, reflected the “true intention” of the Congress party.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.