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Hours after the Congress’ Lagadapati Rajagopal used pepper spray in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari wondered if it was time to start frisking MPs before they enter Parliament.
“Maybe presiding officers will have no other option but to frisk the honourable members,” an MP quoted Ansari as saying at a meeting of the upper House’s business advisory committee to decide the agenda for next week’s proceedings.
The remark was met with stony silence before the MPs grudgingly agreed that Rajagopal’s action had not done them any favours.
Members of Parliament aren’t frisked when they enter the House. A few years ago, they had demanded that they be granted a similar exemption when they travel by air. Two years ago, the home ministry had put out statistics that showed that politicians, including MPs, had complained the most against the Central Industrial Security Force, which is tasked with frisking passengers at airports.
Outside the House, senior MPs condemned the pepper spray attack but were quick to dismiss any talk about introducing frisking for parliamentarians. Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav and Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Bannerjee were among those who rejected the suggestion. “Don’t reduce it to such a small level,” Yadav said, admonishing reporters.
A Parliament security officer agreed, saying: “We’d never be able to do the frisking professionally... and every time an MP smuggles in something like this, we will be the only ones in trouble for failing.”
While Rajagopal managed to sneak the pepper spray in, another MP was caught trying to smuggle in a bottle of petrol. In 1998, then Bihar MP Anand Mohan had even carried a firearm into Lok Sabha.
Government floor managers conceded they had received tip-offs about MPs planning to create serious trouble on Thursday. This had prompted parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath to request Samajwadi Party, BSP and Trinamool Congress leaders to help form a ring around the Speaker’s table and guard the senior ministers well before proceedings began.
In the backdrop of this information, some central ministers even accused TDP MP Venugopal Reddy of brandishing a knife in the House. But it later turned out that the MP was just holding part of a broken microphone.
“We had expected worse... there was apprehension some people may try to physically harm senior ministers or the Speaker,” said a union minister privy to the UPA’s elaborate plans to introduce the bill. But he conceded that the pepper spray was a surprise.