It was drama and disruption unlike any other witnessed by Parliament. Seeking to keep its promise of creating a separate state of Telangana, the Congress-led UPA government managed to introduce in the Lok Sabha the Bill that will allow the division of Andhra Pradesh amid turmoil in the house which saw three MPs being hospitalised after a Congress MP opposed to the new state sprayed pepper spray to disrupt proceedings.
The events led to the suspension of 16 anti-Telangana MPs for the rest of the session and the BJP questioning the very introduction of the Bill in such circumstances. But with Speaker Meira Kumar sticking to her ruling that the Bill had indeed been introduced, the BJP announced that it would not talk to the government for the remaining period of the session on its legislative agenda.
The drama started moments before the house assembled at noon as Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was escorted to his seat by junior minister RPN Singh.
Congress members Lal Singh, R Dhruvnarayan, Mohammed Azharuddin, NSV Chintan, V Perumal, Aaroon Rasheed, Sajjan Singh Verma and Arun Yadav formed a human shield around Shinde to protect him from MPs opposed to Telangana as Speaker Kumar asked him to move the Bill.
Even as opposition MPs protested saying they did not have advance notice about this, all hell broke loose as Congress MP from Vijayawada, L Rajagopal, who was in the well, picked a glass item and swung it on the table, breaking it and creating a ruckus. He then pulled out a pepper spray and started spraying it indiscriminately.
Shinde, who was on his feet and pleading that he be allowed to move the Bill, seemed keen to rush out from his seat but waited as Kumar sought the permission of the house to allow the introduction of the Bill.
With members unable to hear her and the pepper spray apparently having an effect on her as well, Kumar adjourned the house until 2 pm and left it in a hurry. Around the same time, a watch-and-ward staff member whisked leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, out of the house. Rajagopal, however, continued to furiously spray from the pepper spray canister. As Congress members chased him, he tried to run towards the opposition benches but was caught by Shrawasti MP Vinnu Pandey, resulting in a scuffle between them.
There was another scuffle between anti-Telangana member M Venugopal Reddy, who had snatched a microphone from the Secretary-General’s desk, and Raj Babbar.
Marshalls of the house finally managed to stop Rajagopal and forcibly evicted him from the house. Pandey was later escorted by Delhi MP Sandeep Diskhit to an ambulance waiting outside.
Anti-Telangana MPs and others in the house continued their face-off in the house until they began to feel the effect of the pepper spray. Many started coughing and left the house holding handkerchiefs to their faces to save themselves from the pungent air.
While the visitors’ gallery was empty, the effect of the spray was felt even in the press gallery as some reporters were in tears.
When the house assembled at 2 pm, Congress MPs gathered near the speaker’s table to prevent anti-Telangana MPs from getting near her or climbing the table. Kumar invoked rule 374A of the rules for proceedings and named 16 members who were protesting in the well and were involved in scuffles, suspending them for the next five consecutive sittings before adjourning the house for another hour until 3 pm.
However, with protesting anti-Telangana members still in the well, Kumar adjourned the house until Monday when the government plans to introduce the vote-on-account.