It is time to pack up, sir! Please resign and save the Lok Sabha's honour, an anguished Sheela Bhatt reports from the Lok Sabha press gallery after watching the shameful goings on over the tabling of the Telangana Bill.
It was the most shameful day for India's parliamentary democracy.
Lagadapati Rajagopal, the Member of Parliament from Vijayawada and one of the richest politicians in Andhra Pradesh -- with real estate holdings in Hyderabad, and the chairman of the Lanco group that has several energy projects -- sprayed pepper spray to disturb the tabling of the Telangana bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, February 13.
It was a complete failure on the part of the government to handle the creation of the new state that led to this horrible and violent moment in Parliament.
Just before the session began at noon, Seemandhra and Telangana MPs of the Congress and other Andhra parties were near the Speaker's chair in the well of the House.
It was a mockery of democracy that Arun Yadav, Madhya Pradesh Pradesh Congress Committee president, Raj Babbar and others were guarding the area to protect Speaker Meira Kumar and allow the government to table the Telangana bill in the House.
As soon as the Speaker arrived, Telugu Desam Party MP Jagannathan went to hit the Lok Sabha staff and tried to tear off the papers. The Congress musclemen -- I mean those MPs deployed to stop the Seemandhra MPs from obstructing the House got back at them.
Then, in a matter of seconds, Rajagopal produced his pepper spray, and the Speaker, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, Sushilkumar Shinde, Rahul Gandhi and others started running out of the House. The prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were not present in the House.
In the ruckus, Sharad Yadav fell and some Congressmen punched Rajagopal.
A Telugu Desam Party MP, M Venugopal, brandished a knife, which was why they ran out, some Congress MPs said.
It was during this ruckus that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde read out from the Telangana bill, which he inferred as the tabling of the Bill in the House, which was seconded by Law Minister Kapil Sibal.
However, the Lok Sabha secretariat contradicted this, saying it was not sure if the Bill has been tabled in the House.
Kamal Nath has come under fire from the Andhra MPs over the publication of a report in the newspapers; in fact, they say, even the 'knife' in an MP's hands was a piece of a broken microphone, which the Congress is misrepresenting, they claim. The MP, Venugopal, told Rediff.com that he believes in parliamentary democracy and will never ever carry a knife inside the Lok Sabha. He said he was carrying a broken mike which was being dubbed as a knife by the Congress. "I am feeling shame that MPs were positioned to do the marshalls' job," he added.
On Wednesday, the prime minister had said his heart bled to see his ministers prevent the railway minister from presenting the interim Rail Budget. Dr Singh, what will you say today?
It is time to pack up, sir! Please resign and save the Lok Sabha's honour.
Meanwhile, let the Congress ask questions of itself: Who disrobed Indian democracy today?
Who brought the country to this situation where everybody is lying to everybody else in a game of deception, right in the well of the House? And, what for?!
Image: A television grab of the unruly scenes in the Rajya Sabha over the government's attempt to table the Telangana Bill.