Thursday's Lok Sabha session witnessed nothing short of anarchy with livid members of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh shouting slogans, trooping into the Well, breaking a mike and the glass on a table, and using peppery spray. Several members had to be rushed to hospitals during the day-long drama played out over the Centre's decision to table the controversial Telangana Bill, which has disrupted the House every single day in the ongoing Parliament session.
Continued pandemonium and mayhem led to the House being adjourned four times from 11 in the morning until three in the afternoon. Each time the members convened, their behaviour remained as intransigent as ever. By the end of the day, 17 Seemandhara members were suspended and the House adjourned until Monday. The status of the Telangana Bill remained in the grey with Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde claiming that the Bill was now the House's property and the Opposition BJP insisting that the Bill had not been introduced according to procedure.
"Our parliamentary democracy is admired throughout the world, what happened today is a blot," said Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
The melee began at the start of the session when Telangana MPs shouted slogans and the Andhra members trooped into the Well of the House. Even as the first question was asked and the answer was being given by the minister, Speaker Kumar adjourned the House till 12 pm.
At noon, MPs from Seemandhra and Telangana crowded the Well of the House. A loud sound, much like a small explosion, was heard and members began to run helter skelter; Kumar rushed into her chamber and the MPs made for the doors. The sound was the result of Vijayawada Congress MP Lagadapati Rajagopal pulling out a can of pepper spray and spraying it all round in a wild, frenzied manner. A few members rushed over to overpower him but the spray was affecting everyone in the House, including journalists in the Press Gallery. As members grappled with the irritation, burning sensation and watery eyes, they soon realised that it was pepper spray.
Some members said that the noise was due to the breaking of glass on the oblong table in front of the Speaker where the House staff and Lok Sabha reporters sit to take notes. Some others said Telugu Desam Party MP Venugopal Reddy had whipped out a knife and banged it on the table. The House was adjourned till 2pm.
There was anxiety outside the House as two members affected by the pepper spray had to be rushed in waiting ambulances to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital. Minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tiwari, meanwhile, assured journalists that the Telangana Bill had been tabled even as Reddy and his colleagues denied that there was a knife, and that it was just the sound of a mike being broken.
When the House met at 2pm, Andhra MPs, including minister of state for tourism and actor K.Chiranjeevi, minister of state for human resources development Puranderaswari, once again stormed into the Well of the House. The two were out in the front but maintained a silent demeanour. One of the TDP MPs lay on the floor in the Well, complaining of chest pain. It was rumoured that the MP had swallowed a poison pill in protest. Other members cautioned that no one should jump to conclusions until doctors determined the cause. The House was then adjourned till 3pm.
When the House reassembled at 3pm, the Speaker had suspended 17 members including YSR Congress president Jagan Mohan Reddy. But the suspended members continued to hover in the Well. The House was adjourned yet again, this time until Monday, as slogans reverberated in the House.
Congress MPs said they were disappointed by their colleagues' behaviour and that the Speaker should file criminal cases against them. But the government and the Speaker have not indicated their intent to complaint against Rajgopal and Venugopal Reddy.
"I have a lot of respect for Indian democracy. I want to prevent the bill. So I pulled the mike," Rajagopal told reporters outside Parliament.
Some Congress members, however, admitted to having sympathy for the plight of the Telangana and Andhra MPs considering if the latter do not shout or create havoc in the House, people in their constituencies back home will not forgive them.
BOX: MPs are not frisked
Members of Parliament are not frisked at security points anywhere in the Parliament House, which is why Congress MP Lgadapati Rajagopal was able to sneak in a can of pepper spray into the Lok Sabha. Officials, journalists, visitors are frisked at several points in the Parliament complex. MPs are unlikely to accept the need for security check after Thursday's mayhem in the House.