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The Darkest Day

Friday, 14 February 2014 | Deepak K Upreti | New Delhi

Telangana turmoil: MPs run amok in LS; spray pepper, break glass, have fisticuffs

A handful of MPs from  Seemandhara region of Andhra Pradesh brought shame to  Parliament  on Thursday by spraying pepper, attacking other members and breaking the microphone of  the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. An MP also allegedly brandished a knife, though he denied it later. The Government added to the disgrace by claiming that in the midst of such chaos, anarchy and confusion, it had completed the formality of introducing the Andhra Reorganisation Bill for creation of Telangana State.

As an ambulance rushed the four injured members to the hospital and a TV channel flashed news about a chemical attack in Parliament, inside Lok Sabha MPs and journalists rubbed their eyes and struggled with bouts of coughing.

The mayhem broke out just as the House assembled.  Protesting against the move to introduce the Bill, Congress MP from Seemandhara Lagadapati Rajagopal squirted pepper spray all around and M Venugopal Reddy of TDP tore  papers, twisted mikes and broke the glass pane of a table in the Well of the House. Some “neutral” MPs, who rushed in to pin down the two unruly legislators, also bore their wrath.

While MPs supporting and opposing bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh induced  an unprecedented ‘anarchy’ in the Lower House, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde  “introduced” the Andhra Reorganisation Bill for creation of  Telangana State. However, nothing was heard in the din and it was not clear if the necessary formality to deem it introduced was completed.

Taking strict action against errant MPs, Speaker Meira Kumar later suspended Rajgopal and Reddy, along with 14 others like Sabbam Hari (Congress), Ananth V Reddy (Congress), RS Rao (Congress), Nimmala Kristappa (TDP) YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (YSR Congress), MS Reddy (Congress), V Aruna Kumar (Congress) , A Sai Prathap (Congress), KRG Reddy (Congress), GS Reddy (Congress) and Niramalli Siaprasad (TDP).

A palpable fear of major disorder was in the air as Lok Sabha reassembled at 12 pm after an adjournment in the morning.  Even before Speaker assumed her seat, Seemandhara MPs, including Union Ministers Chiranjeevi, Purandeshwari and Pallam Raju had taken their positions close to the Well of the House. As the proceedings started, Seemandhara MPs quickly moved to the Well shouting slogans in favour of a united Andhra Pradesh.

Suddenly, Reddy ran towards the Well of the House and broke mikes, glass pane of the Registrar General’s table top and tore certain papers. The TDP MP who had almost climbed on to the table of the Secretary General was prevented from doing so by a woman staffer who decisively pushed him back.

While the TDP MP was running amok, Congress member Rajagopal did the unthinkable by taking a pinkish canister and spraying pepper powder around in complete abandon. All hell broke loose within a few minutes.

One of the MPs tried to snatch the aerosol from him, but by the time he was “disarmed”, Gopal had sprayed the powder 360 degrees, “afflicting” the Opposition and treasury members sitting in the front row, making them cough and rub their eyes.

While some MPs tried to tackle Rajagopal, the watch and ward staff stepped into save the situation.The TDP MP Venugopal Reddy who broke the Speaker’s microphone was also reported to have brandished a knife during House proceedings. The MP, however, denied the allegation saying he was merely waving the broken parts of the microphone.

Some MPs, including Raj Babbar, Azharuddin, Lal Singh and Vinu Pandey (Congress) and Saugata Roy (TMC) who had firewalled Treasury benches and Speaker’s chair clashed with members of Seemandhra who wanted to put a halt to the House proceedings.

In view of the chaos, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House till 2 pm soon after the Bill was introduced. When the House reassembled again, an MP fell in the Well of the House had to be carried out by Lok Sabha staff. The noisy scene continued and the Speaker adjourned the House till 3 pm.

All this while, the smell of spray had penetrated the air with Press galleries and areas outside the House coming under its strong impact. While journalists reporting on the proceedings from a distance also felt the uneasiness, some MPs were rushed to hospitals in ambulances. 

One of the TDP MPs MP Madhu Yaskhi Goud maintained that the entire incident was “pre-planned” as Rajagopal and Reddy were “heard making statements that they would do all this.”  Goud claimed that before House started in the morning, one of the MPs said he would come with cyanide. “They should be arrested,” he demanded and maintained that he was beaten up by the two when he tried to take the spray away from Rajagopal.

Congress MP from Mumbai Sanjay Nirupam criticised the floor management by the ruling side and sought compulsory frisking of all the MPs entering Parliament. Rajagopal, who infamously made history on Thursday by using spray in the Well of the House, was expelled from Congress along with five other members from the Seemandhra region only two days back for their persistent defiance on the Telangana issue and even giving notices of no-confidence against the Manmohan Singh Government. An MP from the Vijaywada and a son-in-law of ex-minister P Upendra, Rajagopal is one of the richest MPs in the House. He heads Lanco Infratech, a large business conglomerate.



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