Parliament witnessed yet another low on Wednesday -- when a Samajwadi Party member stunned the Lok Sabha by snatching the copy of the bill for quota in promotion from Minister V Narayanasamy -- which was sought to be thwarted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The incident led to a commotion in the House and triggered a war of words outside between the Congress and its outside ally Samajwadi Party, which is strongly opposed to reservation in promotion for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in government jobs.
Unfazed by the protest from an isolated SP, the third of its kind in Parliament, the government pledged to move the bill for consideration in the House on Thursday.
The action of SP member Yashveer Singh, who represents Nagina constituency in Uttar Pradesh, came when Minister of State for Personnel Narayanasamy was moving the bill for consideration from the second row.
Shocked by Singh's action, Gandhi, who sits in the front row, and some Congress members immediately came to the Well of the House to stop Singh.
A scuffle-like situation ensued as Congress members including K Bapiraju and Vilas Muttemwar rushed to the Well.
Singh had, meanwhile, passed on the bill to his party colleague Neeraj Shekhar. It fell down in the commotion created by his party members who were already in the Well, vociferously protesting against taking up the measure.
A verbal spat followed between Congress and SP members and a shocked Speaker Meira Kumar abruptly adjourned the House for the day.
Amid the melee, several Congress members threw a protective ring around Gandhi, who was being questioned by SP members for thwarting Singh.
Snatching and tearing of a bill from a minister's hand took place for the first in 1997 when a member of the ruling United Front coalition snatched the women's reservation bill from the then prime minister in the Lok Sabha.
Although the Speaker left the House after adjourning it, the commotion persisted.
In order to soothe frayed nerves, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath walked up to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was surrounded by his party colleagues, including Singh.
Congress members also sought to reach out to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the wake of the incident.
Samajwadi Party has been isolated on its opposition to the Bill which will ensure quota in promotion in government jobs for SC/ST employees.
Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, an arch rival of Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh politics, has been seeking to take credit for the passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Terming the House incident as "very deplorable and extremely unfortunate", Kamal Nath later told reporters, "We will urge the Speaker to condemn it and take action against the member".
"The Bill will be taken up on Thursday when the House meets," he said, maintaining that such an act "frustrates parliamentary democracy."
Nath said since Gandhi was closest to the spot where the snatching incident occurred, she asked the member to return the papers he had snatched.
"In democracy, if you are against something, you vote against it. But you can't do this. I condemn it. If they show such an attitude, there is no need for democracy or Parliament or the media," the minister said.
Charges and counter-charges flew thick and fast minutes after the SP member snatched the copy of the bill.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, accompanied by Yashvir Singh, told reporters outside Parliament House that the Congress has insulted his party MP.
"Congress has insulted our MP. Our MP was beaten and now the channel has deleted (blacked out) the clipping. What was done to our MP is insulting," he said.
He said the SP has opposed this bill all along and will continue to oppose it. He denied Congress's allegations that the party had used a Dalit MP to snatch the bill from the minister and that the whole incident was pre-planned.
"The charges against us are baseless," he said.
Asked about the SP's stand in the Lok Sabha on Thursday -- when the government plans to take up the bill -- he said, "Our struggle will continue. This is an unconstitutional bill. Congress is forcefully trying to bring it."
Yadav alleged that pressure was being applied on him from the government, saying the Congress is "using all instruments to put pressure on him" but he will continue to fight.
"When the Congress goes to the people, it will realise the serious repercussions," he said.
Yashvir Singh was reluctant to speak about the issue but claimed there was violence in the House.
Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar denied the accusation that he had attacked Yashvir Singh in the melee.
"This incident only shows the attitude of SP towards Dalits. BJP's allegation that the Congress attacked the SP member is only adding fuel to the fire. If a minister is under attack, is it not our duty to protect him," he asked.
Harsimrat Kaur (SAD) condemned the role of the treasury benches in the whole episode.
"Is this the way the ruling party chief should behave? She grabbed the bill from a SC member. This is the first time that I have seen a member holding the collar of another MP while another member tried to box him," she said.
She maintained that there are several other democratic ways of protest and the Congress members should not have acted in the manner they did.
Kaur alleged that the clipping of the incident is not being shown on any TV channel and it has been deliberately deleted. "This is an attempt to gag the media," she claimed.
Congress member and Scheduled Caste Commission chairperson P L Punia alleged that this was a pre-planned act by SP members.
"This is a shameful act. The SP is anti-Dalit. The SP member snatched the Bill. The attempt was also to attack Congress members," he said.
Punia also alleged that SP intentionally used a Dalit MP to snatch the quota in promotion for SC/ST bill.