Pepper spray leaves Lok Sabha in tears

Feb 14, 2014, 06:02 IST | Agencies

MPs reduced the session to anarchy after Congress’ L Rajgopal, opposing the Telangana Bill, used pepper spray in the Lower House, resulting in the hospitalisation of three others and triggering unprecedented clashes

New Delhi: Politics touched a new low yesterday as an Andhra Pradesh MP opposed to Telangana used pepper spray in the Lok Sabha, triggering unprecedented clashes and leaving 16 MPs suspended for turning Parliament into a house of shame.
Lagadapati Rajagopal, one of six MPs expelled from the Congress, was assaulted by fellow parliamentarians and taken out of the house by marshals after he sprayed the pungent pepper at startled House members to vent his anger over
the decision to carve out the state of Telangana.

Runny noses, itchy eyes: MPs hold handkerchiefs to their face after being affected by pepper spray.

During what turned out to be another tumultuous day in Parliament over Telangana, MPs came to blows, a mike was ripped out, glass shattered and a computer was smashed. Rajagopal’s frenzy sent scores of MPs and Lok Sabha officials — and journalists in the media gallery — running for cover, coughing violently and with a burning sensation in their eyes.

A pungent odour enveloped the House, adding to the chaos caused by the unending sloganeering and disruptions since morning. Amid the commotion, the UPA government managed to introduce a bill that would pave the way to carve out
the Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh — precisely the issue over which Rajagopal was protesting. But, the BJP and some others contested this claim.

TDP member M Venugopala, wrenched the speaker’s microphone. He refused to apologise for the behaviour. “No, I didn’t do anything wrong,” the MP said. “I was protesting. How dare they break up Andhra Pradesh?” Sixteen Lok Sabha MPs were suspended for five days. They included five of the Congress, four of the TDP, two of the YSR Congress, including its leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy, as well as five expelled by the Congress. The Lok Sabha did meet again, but there was no normalcy.
Andhra Pradesh MPs again walked towards the speaker shouting slogans, joined by Tamil Nadu members equally angry over the attacks on their fishermen by the Sri Lanka Navy.

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day. In the Upper House, Congress member KVP Ramachandra Rao and TDP’s YS Chowdhary and CM Ramesh stood in front of the chairman’s podium holding placards that demanded a “United Andhra Pradesh!”

MP admitted to hospital
A TDP lawmaker who collapsed in the Lok Sabha while protesting over the Telangana issue has been admitted to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. K Narayana Rao was protesting near the speaker’s podium. Suddenly, he collapsed on the floor and was rushed to the hospital, while the house was adjourned. Hospital Medical Superintendent H K Kar said Rao had a heart disease and was advised to undergo an open heart surgery last week by doctors back home in Hyderabad. “Too much exertion and excitement resulted in an increase in his blood pressure and pulse rate. His heart condition added to the problem, as he felt suffocated and out of breath,” Kar said. Three more who were brought to the hospital with complaints of itching in the eyes and ontheir skin were treated and later discharged.

All hell breaks loose: Ambulances were called to Parliament after MPs rushed out, following the violence that broke out. Pics/AFP

Outside Parliament
If all this wasn’t enough, supporters and opponents of Telangana fought with one another outside the house, leaving an unspecified number injured

Used pepper spray in self-defence, says MP
Suspended Congress lawmaker L Rajagopal, who used the pepper spray, said he took the step in ‘self-defence’.  “I used pepper spray in self-defence. I rushed to the well only when a Seemandhra MP was attacked,” said Rajagopal. He was quickly overpowered by fellow MPs and marshals. Meanwhile, TDP MP Venugopal, who was involved in the fracas over the Telangana bill and was accused of bringing a knife to the house, termed the allegations a lie. “I was not carrying a knife inside the House. This is a lie being spread by the government. I was holding a mike, which may have looked like a knife,”
said Reddy.

It’s brawling time

This is not the first time that chaos has erupted in our state assemblies and the Rajya Sabha. Here’s a look at some unforgettable brawls:

>> 1997: A fight broke out in the UP Assembly after a heated debate. Chairs and mikes were thrown

>> 2009: MNS MLAs attacked SP legislator Abu Azmi inside the state assembly for taking the oath in Hindi

>> 2012: SP leader Yashvir Singh snatched a copy of the bill on quota in promotions from Minister of State in the PMO, V Narayanasamy, in the Lok Sabha, leading to the House being adjourned

MPs react
Sharad Yadav, Janata Dal (United)
This is an attack on our democracy and nothing short of sedition. If the strongest action is not taken, it will be difficult for Parliament to run.

Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker
I think the strictest of punishments should be given, whichever party a member may be from. Expulsion is minimal action against them.

LK Advani, BJP leader
I have never seen such scenes. It was disgraceful. I feel very sad. It’s not a question of suspension. Is this the way Parliament functions? In this chaotic situation, I feel that the government should not take up anything other than the vote on account.

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