Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vijayawada MP Lagadapati sneaks in pepper spray, Govt Telangana bill Mike broken, mayhem in the Well of Lok Sabha, Cong sad, soft with recalcitrant MPs

New Delhi: It had happened with the Women’s Reservation Bill, with the Lokpal Bill. But those two episodes where an angry members snatched the bill from the hands of the minister and tore it up appears harmless compared to what angry, bitter and over-emotional Seemandhra MPs did when home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde introduced the Telangana Bill a little after noon when the Lok Sabha re-assembled. It was bad behaviour in parliamentary parlance, but Congress ministers and members were resigned, sad but not too angry. They seemed to understand if not forgive the “bad behaviour”. Opposition members were angry with the Congress leadership for letting the situation deteriorate into a shameful spectacle.

It started at 11 am when Lok Sabha gathered on Thursday morning. The visitors’ galleries were nearly empty. There was fear that there would be trouble from the sympathisers. But the trouble was about to break in the House. As had become the habit, the Telangana MPs shouted slogans and the Andhra MPs trooped into the Well of the House. Even as the first question was asked and the answer was being given by the minister, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House to 12 pm.

At 12 pm, the MPs from Seemandhra as well as from Telangana crowded the Well of the House. There was instant trouble as a loud noise was heard. It was like a small explosion. Vijayawada Congress MP Lagadapati Rajagopal pulled out a spray can and began spraying it all round in a wild manner, even as other members rushed to overpower him. Immediately, members began to run helter-skelter, even as Kumar rushed into her chamber and the MPs to the doors. As the spray’s effect spread, everyone in the chamber, including the journalists in the Press Gallery, felt a burning sensation, and there was irritation in, and watering of, the eyes. It took a few minutes to realise that it was pepper spray. Rumour spread that that the noise was due to the glass of the oblong Table in front of the Speaker where the staff of the House sit and Lok Sabha reporters take notes of the proceedings in the House was broken and it was due to TDP MP Venugopal Reddy had whipped out a knife and banged it on the Table. Later, Reddy and his colleagues denied that it was a knife, and that it was just the sound of a mike being broken.

Minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tiwari assured journalists outside Parliament House that the Telangana Bill was tabled, and later Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde too confirmed that the Bill was now property of the House. The BJP is insisting that the Bill has not been introduced.

The House was adjourned till 2 pm. There was excitement and anxiety outside the House as two of the members affected by the pepper spray had to be rushed in waiting ambulances to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Safdar Jung Hospital.

When the House met at 2 pm, Andhra Pradesh members were again in the Well of the House, including minister of state for tourism and film star K.Chiranjeevi and minister of state for human resources development Puranderaswari were out in the front but still maintaining their silent demeanour. One of the TDP MPs was laying on the floor in the Well, and he complained of heart pain. There was rumour the MP swallowed a poison pill in protest. Other members cautioned that no one should jump to conclusions until the doctors determine the cause. The House was adjourned till 3 pm.

When House reassembled at 3, the Speaker had suspended 18 members, all but two of them are from Andhra Pradesh, including YSR Congress president Jagan Mohan Reddy. But the suspended members were still hovering in the Well of the House. The House was adjourned as slogans reverberated once in the House. The House was adjourned till Monday morning.

Congress members were sad and disappointed with the behaviour of the Seemandhra MPs, but there was sneaking sympathy for their plight. Congress leaders are aware that if they do not shout and create havoc in the House, people in their constituencies back home would not forgive them.

There are some Congress members who feel that the angry Seemandhra MPs, whatever their compulsions, have crossed the red line and that there should be criminal cases against them and the Speaker should not spare them.

As of now, government and Speaker are not too intent punitive action against Lagadapati Rajgopal for using pepper spray in the House and against Venugopal Reddy for breaking the glass on Table of the House.

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