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Blackout, marshalls and voice vote set new precedent in Bill passage

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

The Lok Sabha looked like a virtual battle-ground during the 85-minute chaos and noisy disorder when Speaker Meira Kumar created new precedents to seek approval of the House on the controversial Andhra Pradesh Reorginsation Bill.

Her unprecedented decision to black out the live telecast of the proceedings, when the House sat in the afternoon evoked sharp reactions, with several MPs calling it the "murder of democracy" and "reminders of emergency". The Speaker's office, however, clarified that it was not an ordered "blackout" but a technical glitch.

Before the proceedings of the Lok Sabha went off air at 3pm, the Speaker also ordered closure of all entrance gates of the Parliament House building. Another precedence used in the current session of Parliament was the practice of using MPs as "marshals" to protect leaders and prevent Opposition from coming into the Well. On Tuesday, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was protected by Congress MPs-turned-marshals. The musclemen MPs who stood in front of the Speaker, Sonia and Shinde to protect them from any assault were mostly drawn from Madhya Pradesh, guided by Kantilal Bhuria and Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi besides Lal Singh of Jammu & Kashmir and Hamidullah Sayeed of Lakshadweep, while Mumbai MP Sanjay Nirupam and Delhi MP Mahabal Mishra, the two Biharis, stood guard to scare away any Opposition members reach their leaders.

The Speaker also short-circuited the debate by not giving time to anyone from those opposing the Bill, saying they can lay their speeches on the table after allowing Shinde to introduce the Bill and allowed only Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj and Union minister S Jaipal Reddy, hotly tipped to be Telangana chief minister, to speak in support.

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said she was not aware that the telecast had been stopped. She rejected Speaker's office defence hiding behind technical glitch. "It was not technical, but tactical glitch," she said.

The Speaker also short-circuited repeated demands for division by resorting to the headcounts to negate nearly a dozen amendments brought by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) and Trinamool MP Saugata Roy. When Roy protested that "we are not sheep to be counted," instead of deciding division by pressing electronic buttons, the Speaker overruled him, saying it was perfect under the rules.

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