Fisticuffs, pepper spraying marks tabling of T-bill in Lok Sabha

Fisticuffs, pepper spraying marks tabling of T-bill in Lok Sabha

Unprecedented pandemonium marked by fisticuffs, pepper spraying and breaking of mike was today witnessed in Lok Sabha as the government introduced the controversial Telangana bill.

Hell broke loose in the House with members feeling suffocated and seen coughing after expelled Congress MP L Rajagopal resorted to spraying of pepper to prevent introduction of the bill that provides for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

The spray, generally used by women to fend off eve-teasers, was used to lethal effect in the Well of the House as Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde introduced the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill amid vociferous protests by members from Seemandhra.

The impact of the spray was such that an unspecified number of members were rushed to hospitals after at least four ambulances were pressed into service.

Some members were seen coming out of the House with watery eyes and seemed to be suffocating.

The Well of the Lok Sabha turned into a battle ground as fisticuffs broke out between members from Seemandhra and others, including Raj Babbar, Azharuddin, Lal Singh (all Cong) and Saugata Roy (TMC), who wanted to prevent disruptions in the House.

M Venugopal Reddy (TDP) first damaged a mike on the table of Secretary General and later snatched papers from the Speaker's podium, while Rajagopal broke the glass on the table and used the pepper spray. 

The high drama took place soon after the House assembled at noon after one adjournment and Home Minister was about to introduce the bill.

In view of the chaos, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House till 2 PM soon after the bill was introduced.

Though Treasury benches had made arrangements to prevent disturbance by positioning members like Raj Babbar, Azharuddin and Lal Singh near the Well, M Venugopal Reddy (TDP) broke the mike on the Secretary General's table.

Reddy was immediately overpowered by other members by when Rajagopal broke the glass on the Secretary General's table. Soon after, Rajagopal sprayed the pepper spray near the podium causing commotion and coughing.

TMC veteran Saugata Roy, while feeling choked, was seen trying to control the unruly members in the Well. Soon other members started coughing uncontrollably.

Rajagopal was attacked by some members and it was hard time for the watch and ward staff to rescue him and take him to the office of the Speaker.

The smell of the spray was so strong that its impact was felt even outside the House.

Rajagopal 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.

Minutes before the fracas broke out, TDP member N Sivaprasad from Seemandhra and M Jagannath of Congress from Telangana, who had almost come to blows yesterday, were seen exchanging pleasantries. 

Before the House resumed, Seemandhra MPs, including ministers M Pallam Raju and Chirajeevi, were standing near the Well, apparently discussing their strategy of protests.

Some MPs carried some placards protesting the move to create Telangana, which they could not display due to the high drama.

There was additional frisking of journalists and other visitors when they were entering the House to witness the proceedings.

There were reports that Parliament security staff kept fire extinguishers and blankets ready to prevent possible self-immolation attempts by the Seemandhra MPs to protest introduction of the Telangana Bill.

Those present during the high-drama included Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and JD-U leader Sharad Yadav.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were not present.

As several members in the Well and those in the front rows felt choked due to the spray, Parliament doctors rushed inside the House and started attending to them.

The impact of the spray was so severe that even mediapersons in the press gallery atop the Chair started coughing and getting choked. The visitors' gallery was empty.

As some MPs were trying to overpower Rajagopal when he was spraying from the canister, he suffered some blows and the watch and ward staff intervened to take him away.

Leaders of several parties condemned the incident, with s Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) demanding the arrest of Rajagopal.

"It is unbelievable, disgraceful and unwarranted. Never has it happened in our Parliament and neither anywhere in the world," Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said.

He also attacked Congress and the government for not listing the bill in today's list of business.

"It is not even mentioned in the supplementary list of business of Lok Sabha. This is highly irregular. Most MPs were in the dark on the issue and Congress has made a mess of it," he said. 

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