New Delhi, March 6: Strip Mayavati of the chief minister’s post or I strip in the House — that was the threat from Akhilesh Singh. Well, almost.
In a fit of rage, the Samajwadi party member peeled off his coat as the Opposition failed to get anywhere with its demand to have a discussion on the allegation that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister asked her Bahujan Samaj Party MPs to divert money from their constituency development fund to the party.
When BJP members objected to a discussion saying that the issue had been debated four times already, Singh lost his cool and declared that he did not want to be a member of a House which refused to take up charges of corruption and that too involving the dignity of MPs.
Singh said he had “lost faith in Parliament” and, announcing that he was going to resign, he pulled out a sheet of paper and started writing on it. Some of his party colleagues stopped him.
But taunts flew in from the BJP benches and that snapped his temper. Singh sprang up and ran towards the interpreters’ desk unbuttoning his coat. He then threw it on the table, much to the shock of onlookers who included Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata, of course, had thrown her shawl at then Speaker P.A. Sangma in 1996.
Singh’s off-white bandhgala was picked up by an interpreter who neatly folded it and placed it on the table of the House.
Had the coat then been “tabled”' No one was prepared to go on record.
Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed, who was in the chair, would only condemn the incident.
After throwing his coat, Singh collected his briefcase to stage a walkout, but other Opposition members persuaded him to resume his seat. All this while the House was in uproar and the chair adjourned it for 15 minutes.
Later, repenting his behaviour, Singh tendered an unqualified apology to Speaker Manohar Joshi. Shortly before the House rose for the day, Singh said he had been agitated by allegations and had no intention of showing disrespect to the chair.
“I was provoked and was agitated. I am sorry if my behaviour has hurt anyone or caused any bitterness,” he said. Accepting the apology, Joshi warned the member against a recurrence.
Singh had by the time earned reprobation almost all round — even some Congress members who had supported his demand dutifully described his behaviour as inappropriate — lightened up by merriment in the corridors with comparison being drawn to actor Salman Khan’s proclivity to strip off his shirt to display his bulging muscles.
The Samajwadi member did not quite get to that stage. But he went a great deal farther than anyone had in the past.
“In 1974, Madhu Limaye threw a clutch of papers at the then Speaker while a discussion on Maruti was on and he later apologised. Arif Mohammed Khan snatched papers from Sheila Dixit, then minister of state for parliamentary affairs, and two years ago Samajwadi member Surendra Yadav snatched papers from then minister Thambidurai who was trying to table the Bill on women’s reservation,” said a senior Congress leader.
The only senior minister present at the time the “stripping” took place was finance minister Jaswant Singh. But he did not pay attention.
Cool as cucumber, he kept reading the International Herald Tribune.