Pepper spray, knife out in LS as Telangana bill tabled

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Pepper sprays and knives were out as pro- and anti-Telangana MPs clashed in Lok Sabha after the government hurriedly introduced the contentious bill in the House on Thursday. Clashes, breaking of microphone, smashing of computer screen, alleged flashing of a knife by a legislator marked a new low in the history of Indian Parliament on Thursday.

Leading the all-round condemnation, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar described the pandemonium in Lok Sabha as a “blot in democracy.” Expressing her anguish over the incident, the Speaker said it “shamed the country and Parliament.”

Some MPs were rushed to the hospital as they complained of burning eyes and choking following the use of pepper spray. Another MP was admitted for a heart condition after he collapsed in the Well of the House while opposing the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

TDP MP Venugopal Reddy, accused of flashing a knife, denied the charge and claimed it was only a mike that he broke while rushing into the Well of the House. While frenzied anti- and pro-Telangana MPs indulged in unprecedented mayhem inside Lok Sabha, factions also clashed outside the House over the division of Andhra Pradesh.

A controversy raged over the introduction of the bill with the BJP-led Opposition claiming that the legislation was “not introduced” while the Speaker ruled that it was “introduced.”

Blame game began in the Congress with some MPs pointing fingers at the top leadership for creating the Telangana mess. BJP held the Congress responsible for the “day of shame.” Cracking the whip, the Lok Sabha Speaker suspended 16 MPs, who included Congress MPs L Rajagopal expelled from the party for using the pepper spray and Venugopal Reddy accused of flashing out a knife.

Tempers ran high as Lok Sabha commenced around 11 am. The Speaker adjourned the House till 12 noon as the government prepared to introduce the contentious bill. As the House commenced around noon, Congress MPs Raj Babbar, Muhammed Azha­ruddin, Ashok Tanwar and Lal Singh took positions around the Speaker and in front of the Treasury Bench.

As the Speaker entered the House and approached the Chair, anti-Telangana MP Venugopal Reddy of TDP rushed from his seat towards the Well of the House uprooting the mike of the House secretary-general in the process. It was the beginning of a frenzy never witnessed in the past. Venugopal then smashed the computer screen on the desk of the secretary-general, which provoked pro-Telangana legislators to pounce on the TDP MP.

Amid the clashes, L Rajagopal appeared in the scene, took out a canister and sprayed pepper in the Well of the House. He was facing the Treasury Bench. In the melee, Rajagopal had free run with his pepper spray for nearly 60 seconds. It was then that four Congress MPs were seen pouncing on him in a bid to snatch the canister. While Rajagopal fell to the floor, the Congress MPs kept thrashing his arm till they could take the can away.

Trinamul Congress MP Saugata Roy made a valiant attempt to pacify the clashing mob, but gave up in a few seconds and returned to his seat. As the clashes went on unabated, the Speaker asked for the bill to be introduced and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde hurriedly introduced the legislation amid the pandemonium. The House was immediately adjourned till 2 pm.

Most of the MPs were seen coughing even before the bill was introduced. Some panicked and ran towards the exit thinking some poisonous gas was released. The House assembled again at 2 pm. As fresh trouble broke out, TDP MP Narayana Rao, who too was agitating against the legislation, suddenly collapsed in the Well of the House. The marshals took him away. He apparently had a heart attack but was later declared out of danger.

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