In an unprecedented and complete breakdown of parliamentary conduct, Lok Sabha MPs came to blows, smashed glasses, yanked microphones and even unleashed a can of pepper spray in the House to stop the introduction of the Telangana bill on Thursday.
Members aren’t frisked when they enter Parliament and the Congress’ Lagadapati Rajagopal took advantage of this to smuggle in the 200ml pepper spray can. Another MP, a senior official told HT, was trying to sneak in a bottle of petrol but was luckily caught by security guards.
Read: MPs behaviour in LS over Telangana dissaproved by majority: HT poll
Read: L Rajagopal sprays pepper in LS over Telangana bill, Twitter stings him
The frenzy that started soon after 12 noon and lasted two minutes sent three MPs to hospital and several others running out teary-eyed and coughing into their handkerchiefs. A distraught Meira Kumar, the Speaker, later suspended 16 MPs from the House till next Thursday while lamenting the incident as a “blot in the history of Parliament”.
Amid the commotion, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, heavily guarded by Congress MPs, managed to introduce the Andhra Pradesh Re-organization Bill. But the opposition parties, led by the BJP, refused to accept the bill had been tabled, alleging gross procedural violations. They also blamed the entire mess on the Congress. “I feel it was part of the design. The government wanted a ruckus,” said leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj.
Read: Congress favours strictest punishment for Rajagopal
Read: Cong MP Rajagopal is a hero in Seemandhra for pepper spray act
Sources said the bill may now be debated after the passage of the interim rail budget and vote on account. “The 16 MPs have been suspended till Thursday. We may use this window to pass the bill,” said a Congress minister.
Anticipating trouble, the visitor’s gallery had been kept vacant for the proceedings — as reported by HT on Thursday — and journalists were allowed into the press gallery only after a thorough security check. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were advised to skip the bill’s introduction and did so, sources said, while the BJP’s LK Advani also stayed away.
Read: MP, who used pepper spray in LS, once moved a bill to curb unruly behaviour
Read: Suspend MPs disrupting Parliament: Digvijaya Singh
But the preparations came to nought as the proceedings got underway. Despite efforts by Congress MPs Raj Babbar and Arun Yadav to cordon off the well of the House, MPs on both sides of the Telangana divide — including many from the Congress — turned violent, breaking microphones, tearing up official papers, smashing the glass on the secretariat table and trading blows. Marshals finally managed to round up the unruly MPs, including pepper spray-armed Rajagopal, and the House was adjourned.
“I did it in self-defence. They pounced on whoever opposed the Telangana bill. I would have done the same anywhere,” said a defiant Rajagopal.
Read: Pepper spray leaves stain on Indian democracy: MPs
Read: Govt was warned of trouble, but pepper spray sprang a surprise
After a series of adjournments, the House reconvened at 3pm — with gas masks for all. As the din continued, senior TDP MP Narayan Rao was rushed to the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia hospital after he complained of breathing difficulty.
Some MPs in a relatively safe corner of the House recorded the commotion on their mobile phones, which are otherwise not allowed inside. Some of this footage later found its way to the TV channels.Full coverage on Telangana
Video: Chaos in Lok Sabha