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Crouching wrestler, open sprayer

TDP legislator Narayana Rao, who was opposing the Telangana bill, collapsed in the Lok Sabha and was rushed to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. Rao, who has been shifted to the coronary care unit, had undergone angiography a week back in Hyderabad and was advised bypass surgery. “Now based on the report we are yet to decide whether we should give him stents or do a bypass surgery,” the hospital superintendent said. (PTI)

New Delhi, Feb. 13: When a muscular MP crouches like a wrestler, you know that the legislative floor is turning into an arena for something else.

A bad omen was already staring the Lok Sabha in the face when the House assembled after the first adjournment at 12 noon. Congress leaders were seen asking well-built members to station themselves in the well of the House. Soon, two protective rings sprang up around home minister Sushil Shinde and Speaker Meira Kumar.

Then, the muscular and “courageous” Chaudhary Lal Singh, the Congress MP from Udhampur in Jammu and Kahmir, adopted the wrestler-like posture and warned the angry Andhra MPs not to cross the limit.

Other “fit” members, including Mohammed Azharuddin, Arun Yadav and Raj Babbar stood guard, much like commandos. Some Telangana MPs too were in the well, ready to strike back, as the Andhra members advanced menacingly towards the Speaker.

As soon as the Speaker sat in her chair and asked home minister Shinde to introduce the bill, the dam broke. M. Venugopala Reddy took the lead by breaking the secretary-general’s laptop with a knife-like object and other MPs threw papers around. Lagadapati Rajagopal sprayed a substance, which he claimed was pepper spray, forcing MPs and journalists to run away.

A security personnel who was involved in taming Rajagopal was heard telling his seniors: “It can’t be pepper… it was too strong. Must be some chemical.”

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath’s first reaction was: “Members tried to use gas in the House, gas the House… I did not see but I am informed that there was a knife, there was gas, there were other kinds of weapons…”

Babbar refused to believe it was pepper spray, contending that the effect was far more lethal.

The stench reached the Central Hall of Parliament when the doors of the Lok Sabha were opened for a clean-up and the Disaster Management Team took charge. Members reacted with shock and disbelief — many of them coughing and seeking medical assistance.

Rajagopal was so angry that he assaulted Madhu Yakshi Gaud, his fellow MP from Telangana region, in the presence of marshals much after he resorted to pepper spray.

Andhra leaders claimed Rajagopal had fought with fellow MPs a few days ago and threatened “to do something alone.” The incident apparently occurred when Rajya Sabha member K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao hosted a dinner at his residence four days ago for all the Seemandhra MPs.

Rajagopal angrily asked Union minister K.S. Rao why he did not come into the well to protest and threatened to beat him up. Other MPs defended Rao. “You are an industrialist and new to the Congress, don’t threaten us,” a source quoted an MP as telling Rajagopal.

This afternoon, the Central Hall was abuzz with speculation: what if an MP comes with a gun or a bomb? Many MPs pointed to the “prevailing political atmosphere” and the rise of a political party “which injected cynicism about the system and propagated the idea of anti-politics”.

Asking for strict frisking of MPs, one senior leader said: “What would happen if an MP decides to blow himself up because India can no longer afford this corrupt leadership anymore? We are doomed to witness a greater level of violence in our democracy.”