MLAs belonging to Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navni-rman Sena (MNS) slapped their Samajwadi Party colleague Abu Azmi in the Assembly on Monday when he insisted on taking his oath of office in Hindi and not Marathi.
Later, four of the MNS’s 13 legislators were suspended for four years for unruly behaviour.
It was the first time the assembly was convened after the assembly election.
A tussle was expected because Azmi, a migrant from Uttar Pradesh, had insisted on taking oath in Hindi and Thackeray had demanded all legislators take oath in Marathi. However, none expected the MNS would resort to violence inside the Legislature.
The four suspended legislatures — Shishir Shinde, Ram Kadam, Vasant Gite and Ramesh Wanjhale were also charged with manhandling a woman MLA Meenakshi Patil (Peasants and Workers Party) who tried to save Azmi from the MNS brigade.
Even before Azmi could complete the first sentence of his oath, Wanjhale rushed through to the dais and uprooted the podium.
Within seconds, his MNS colleagues stormed the well, displayed pro-Marathi banners and shouted slogans. Some threatened to pull Azmi down. MLAs of other parties ran to protect him.
Later, CM Ashok Chavan and his deputy Chhagan Bhujbal condemned the violence and asked the protem Speaker to take strict action against attackers. The suspension of the four was announced soon after. The BJP supported the move, as did the Shiv Sena but it demanded due respect for Marathi.
However, the saffron combine remained neutral when the resolution to suspend the guilty for four years was put up for voting.
MNS group leader Bala Nandgaonkar and Shinde accused the house of discharging unfair justice.
They demanded suspension of Azmi accusing him of provocation and indecent behaviour.
The MNS has decided to appeal before the High Court.