New Delhi, Dec. 19: Sonia Gandhi once captured with poignancy the tragedy that stalked the Nehru-Gandhi family when she wrote how she tried to stop Rajiv Gandhi from accepting prime ministership: “I fought like a tigress — for him, for us and our children, above all, for our freedom.”
This afternoon, that unfamiliar face was on display in the Lok Sabha when she fought for a bill that has pitted one UPA prop against another.
Sonia leapt to her feet, chased the MP who snatched the promotion quota bill, caught him by her left hand, sought to retrieve the paper that he held aloft, clutched his pullover and, unable to reach the taller man’s finger tips, tried to prevent him from tearing the papers up.
The high-octane events unfolded when the Lok Sabha resumed business at 3pm after three adjournments caused by slogan-shouting Samajwadi Party members.
The Samajwadi members were determined not to allow the passage of the Constitution amendment bill to ensure reservation in promotion for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe government employees. Mayawati has been insisting on its passage.
Both had played key roles in bailing the government out on the FDI vote.
Sonia reached the House a little earlier and parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath was briefing her on the Samajwadi Party’s obstinacy. Samajwadi leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, too, was in the House. Minister V. Narayanasamy, who had to pilot the bill, sat in the back benches and ignored repeated requests from Sanjay Nirupam to go to the front as his voice would be inaudible. Sonia turned back, beckoned Narayanasamy to take the second row and asked him to ignore the furore and go ahead.
As Speaker Meira Kumar arrived, Samajwadi members trooped into the well and raised slogans even before Narayanasamy began to speak. Amid the uproar, Narayanasamy began: “Madam Speaker, I beg to move: that the bill further to amend the Constitution of India, as passed by the Rajya Sabha, be taken into consideration….”
While the minister was speaking, Samajwadi member Yashvir Singh appeared from behind and snatched the bill from Narayanasamy’s hands. Yashvir had used the passage usually meant for the Prime Minister, and Narayanasamy was taken by surprise.
But Sonia, seated in the front row but whose face was turned towards the minister, saw it coming before the others. As Yashvir moved towards the Speaker’s podium with the bill, Sonia rushed towards the Samajwadi member.
“What are you doing… what is this?” Sonia asked, raising her voice.
Before any other member could react, Sonia had reached the Samajwadi member, caught him and tried to grab the bill with her other hand. But she only managed to clutch his pullover, just below his neck, and started pulling it.
Yashvir appeared numbed and stood still.
By then, a few other Congress MPs had run to the well. Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar charged towards Yashvir and almost set up a full-fledged group clash, leaving Sonia in the middle of the ring.
Samajwadi members, too, rushed in but Sonia had moved to a corner.
At this point, Brijbhushan Singh, a well-built Samajwadi MP, prevented his colleagues from advancing and Subodh Kant Sahay stood in front of Sonia and spread his arms to protect her.
Congress MP Anu Tandon at this stage sneaked into the well and tried to whisk Sonia away. But Sonia, appearing too angry to leave, kept protesting.
Kamal Nath then went to Mulayam and reasoned with him to call his MPs back. Many BJP members also got up to support the Samajwadi Party, whose Madhubani MP Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav burst into a chant: “Sonia ne mara hai, Sonia ne mara hai (Sonia has beaten him, Sonia has beaten him).”
By then Yashvir, whose community also stands to benefit from the bill, had thrown down the bill, which was picked up by another MP who tore it up.
Sonia then went into the Speaker’s chamber, apparently to lodge a protest against the MP who tore the bill.
The bill now officially stands tabled in the House, whose current session ends tomorrow.