Parliament House and the Delhi Vidhan Sabha may be 10 kilometres apart but the scenes that played out in both on Thursday were eerily similar.
If Telangana was the tipping point for the unprecedented scenes that played out in Parliament Thursday morning, the afternoon saw the start of the Delhi Assembly session, and with it broken microphones, bangles, lipsticks and matchsticks being flung around, resulting in very little work, and four adjournments in the day.
In an attempt to put the Aam Aadmi Party government on the defensive before it could table any of its controversial bills, BJP and Congress MLAs and the lone independent member came together to display their ire against Law Minister Somnath Bharti.
The commotion and frequent adjournments caused Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to threaten that he would resign if his government was not allowed to introduce the Janlokpal Bill.
BJP and Congress MLAs, who until some months back were opposing each other at most steps, jointly shouted slogans against Bharti, calling him the “owner of pornographic sites”.
To the astonishment of most members, Speaker M S Dhir initially left the Assembly without announcing an adjournment. On his return, BJP MLAs stormed the well of the house, demanding the resignation of the law minister.
Even as leader of the opposition Harsh Vardhan asked the speaker to accept a motion to allow discussion on Bharti, he was constantly reminded of his lack of experience by Congress and BJP MLAs. The protests against the speaker only increased when he announced that the motion had been forwarded to the minister for his comments.
Congress MLA Jai Kishan had come armed with ginger, a blade and matchsticks. He went on to place the chunk of ginger on Kejriwal’s table. BJP MLA R P Singh brought lip gloss and bangles which he put in front of Bharti. Also armed with glue, paper and sketches he made a few leaflets, writing “Porn minister” on it and pasted them in front of Bharti’s desk. BJP MLA Naresh Gaur called Bharti “Ashleel mantri” or obscene minister.
The third time the Assembly was adjourned, Congress MLA Asif Mohammad Khan tore papers on the speaker’s table. Several BJP leaders took potshots at the AAP government. BJP’s Anil Jha was heard telling Kejriwal, “Samarthan karne wale to pradarshan kar rahe hain (Those supporting you are the ones protesting),” referring to the Congress.
Soon, the speaker’s mike gave way, subject as it was to the violent attentions of BJP MLAs Kulwant Rana and Neel Daman Khatri. JD(U) MLA Shoaib Iqbal attempted to rescue the situation from atop the speaker’s podium and on behalf of the speaker, approved the motion to call attention demanding a discussion on Bharti.
By the end, every MLA who was not an AAP member passed a motion to suspend the speaker’s power to throw MLAs out of the house, or to suspend them. “It’s amusing how the ignorance of AAP and the speaker of the rules cost them their power,” one senior MLA said.
Terming the day’s proceedings an example of the BJP and the Congress working together, Kejriwal said, “Mukesh Ambani is close to both parties. Has our action against Reliance prompted both parties to oppose us? The BJP and the Congress worked as one to disrupt the house. It was like watching a rehearsed parade. They were even carrying the same placards? How is that possible if there was no prior arrangement?” Kejriwal asked.
The chief minister threatened to resign if opposition parties continued to “defeat” the introduction of the Janlokpal Bill.
“I have always said that the Janlokpal and the Swaraj Bill are very important to us, and I will give up the CM’s chair a thousand times if they are not passed. If the two parties defeat the presentation of the Janlokpal Bill, I will resign. We will assess the situation as it unfolds but will watch for some time what happens. But what happened in the Assembly cannot be democracy,” Kejriwal said.
PWD and Urban Development Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that at an all-party meeting called by the speaker between the second and third adjournments of the day, the Congress and the BJP had said they would not allow any work on Thursday. “They were clear. They told us that the house should be adjourned, and maybe they will allow something tomorrow. We will have to wait and see,” he said.
Delhi Congress president Arvinder Singh Lovely refuted the allegations and said, “To avoid our support to BJP on the issue, AAP should have accepted our demands in the house.”
BJP leader Harsh Vardhan attacked Kejriwal for protecting a “spammer” minister. “It was I who brought Lokayukta in the Assembly when I was the law minister in the Delhi government. Kejriwal is misleading people,” Vardhan said.