Shame on India : MPs go on a rampage

Shame on India

People rush member of parliament K. Narayana Rao to a hospital after he suffered a heart attack during clashes in the lower house of parliament in New Delhi on Thursday. — AP

Parliamentary democracy in India came under severe threat on Thursday when some lawmakers from Seemandhra region virtually went on a rampage in the Lok Sabha, uprooting mikes, smashing table-top glasses and one member even going to the extent of spraying pepper from a canister, following the introduction of a bill seeking to divide Andhra Pradesh for creation of a separate Telangana state.

Even as a stunned-nation watched the mayhem unleashed by elected representatives, a visibly-perturbed Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar ordered the suspension of 18 MPs — 12 from the ruling Congress, four from the regional Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and two from the fledgling YSR Congress.

Shame on India2

Indian Speaker of Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) Meira Kumar (C) leaves Parliament after protests inside the parliament building in New Delhi on February 13, 2014. – AFP

Lagadapati Rajagopal, who was expelled by the Congress along with five other party MPs on Tuesday for persistent unruly behaviour in the House in the past few days, went almost militant by pulling out a canister and spraying pepper all around, causing immense discomfort to several MPs, some of whom were rushed to hospital with watery eyes and running noses.

TDP MP Venugopal Reddy reportedly brandished a knife inside the House.

The Well of the House resembled a battle-ground as Seemandhra MPs, both from Congress as well as TDP, clashed with other ruling party members including actor Raj Babbar and former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin, who were positioned to prevent disruption of the House when the Telangana bill was introduced.

The day’s violent happenings in Parliament, often referred to as the temple of democracy, found criticism from all quarters and political parties, but the opposition BJP slammed the Congress-led UPA government for the fracas. “The UPA government did not follow Parliamentary practices and norms while introducing the Telangana bill. It was not listed in today’s official agenda, nor was there any indication that it would be introduced. We are not willing to speak to the government on this issue any further,” Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj contended.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, countering her allegations, said the BJP had assured that it would support the Telangana bill. “Once the bill was introduced, the opposition party now says it will not support merely on technical aspects of introduction of the bill. This shows the BJP’s double-speak on the issue which is unfortunate,” he said.

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An unidentified member of India’s Parliament, holding a handkerchief to his face after being affected by pepper spray, leaves Parliament after protests . – AFP

The Congress, which had banked on the BJP support for the Telangana bill, is now caught in a Catch-22 situation. The suspension of the Seemandhra MPs may not really translate into smooth passage of the bill with the latest stan-off between the ruling and opposition alliances likely to snowball into a major hurdle for creation of Telangana.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who had said he would resign if the Telagana bill is introduced in Parliament, kept the option open. “We will take a decision collectively after holding consultations with party MLAs, MPs and union ministers,” he told mediapersons who approached him immediately after the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha. Kiran Reddy did not lose the opportunity to slam his party, and for the first time, even questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wisdom in approaching the BJP for support. “Why did Manmohan Singh have a luncheon meeting with BJP leaders when my party describes them as communal elements? When the state is being divided, it should be the people of the state who should be consulted,” the rebellious chief minister said. —

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