Tuesday will go down in the history of legislative sessions as a day when a rat pack of netas hounded a cop in Vidhan Bhavan, pinned him down, pounded him senseless until he got down on his knees before them mouthing apologies to save his skin.
A spectacle unprecedented in the history of any legislature — even Parliament, known to witness flying furniture and hurling abuses in the midst of proceedings, but a spectacle not too far-fetched to be played out in the hallways of Vidhan Bhavan, by elected representatives of the people in Maharashtra.
According to eyewitness accounts, the incident occurred between 12.30 pm and 12.45 pm yesterday. The state assembly had just been adjourned following uproar over a privilege motion moved by Vasai MLA Kshitij Thakur. The motion that Thakur, belonging to the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi which supports Congress, wanted to move was about the alleged ill-treatment he received on Monday afternoon at the hands of one Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryavanshi, attached to the traffic police.
According to Thakur, API Suryavanshi misbehaved with him after fining him for speeding on the Bandra Worli Sea Link. Thakur’s gripe found resonance in his ilk from other parties, who demanded that the traffic officer be suspended. As members trooped to the well of the house, the presiding officer adjourned the house for 30 minutes.
Suddenly, some 5-10 minutes into the break, officials and scribes standing outside the galleries on the first floor of Vidhan Bhavan saw API Suryavanshi running for his life in the corridor. Following him were half a dozen MLAs who, before the stunned eyes of everyone, pounced on him, raining blows. More MLAs joined in the slugfest.
Eyewitnesses said the officer was given a hiding and forced to kowtow before Thakur and seek an apology. A personal assistant of Leader of Opposition Vinod Tawde tried to save the cop from the netas.
At the forefront of the offensive, said eyewitnesses, were MNS MLA Ram Kadam, Shiv Sena MLAs Ashish Jaiswal and Rajan Salvi, Independent MLA Pradip Jaiswal and BJP MLA Jaikumar Rawal. The legislators denied beating up the API, who was whisked away by the Vidhan Bhavan security officials to a nearby room.
Speaker Dilip Walse Patil, Leader of Opposition Ekanth Khadse and Home Minister RR Patil, who had been busy in a meeting to defuse the crisis, emerged during the adjournment, and dropped their jaws as they heard security personnel narrate the incident.
Khadse and Patil rushed to the security cabin and met Suryavanshi, who was later taken to St George Hospital for treatment.
According to the MLAs who allegedly roughed up the officer, he had made obscene gestures from the viewers’ gallery in the house. Officials at the first floor said the officer had been summoned by deputy chairman of state council Vasant Daokhare to settle the matter.
Suryavanshi is believed to have apologised to MLA Thakur inDaokhare’s chamber, but something amiss went down and he had to scuttle to the corridor to save his hide from the legislators. Later, Daokhare claimed he offered tea to the officerwho was accompanied by his colleague.
On a boil
The state assembly was stunned to hear the news. Questions were also raised over Suryavanshi’s presence in the house. The matter refused to die down, with the state assembly witnessing four adjournments through the day. At 5 pm, when the house reassembled, a visibly upset Walse Patil apologised to the people of the state as well as members of the assembly.
But his remorse sent some Congress legislators in a fluster, particularly Sunil Kedar, Abdul Sattar, Vijay Wadettiwar, Ramesh Bagwe, Prashant Thakur and Kshitij Thakur, all of whom pressed for Suryavanshi’s immediate suspension.
When the Speaker said he needed to go through the CCTV footage and learn the details from security officers before considering their demand, the group staged a walkout.
Till late evening, Congress legislators appeared adamant and were waiting for a meeting with the chief minister. The sulking MLAs mostly comprise those who signed a memorandum on seeking a meeting with the party high command to discuss the CM’s style of working.
Congress on its own
The incident isolated the Congress. The MNS was quick to distance itself from the incident involving its Ghatkopar MLA Ram Kadam.
MNS group leader Bala Nandgaonkar said the party had taken a serious view of the incident and did not approve of it. Later, following MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s directions, Kadam was served with a show-cause notice.
The BJP too said the appropriate. Leader of opposition in state council Vinod Tawde said any kind of physical harm was never acceptable.
“Legal avenues are available to deal with such issues,” he said. Ekanth Khadse, leader of opposition in state assembly, chaired a meeting of party MLAs and warned them against any such incident that “may invite immediate suspension”. NCP spokesman MLA Nawab Malik joined the chorus and steered his party clear of the melee, reproving the events of the day.
The reactions left the Congress circle high and dry, with efforts to arrive at an amicable solution continuing till late hours. According to sources, the MLAs involved in the incident might face suspension today.