L Rajagopal at his Lodhi Estate residence in New Delhi. Picture by Yasir Iqbal
New Delhi, Feb. 14: Lagadapati Rajagopal does not need anyone to tell him to practise Ahimsa. Least of all Kamran Loghman, the creator of the pepper spray.
Sitting easy in his central Delhi home as a 3-foot-tall Neapolitan mastiff growled in a shed outside, the expelled Congress MP suggested he had been doing precisely that when he unleashed a burst of pepper spray on his “attackers” in Parliament yesterday.
Had he chosen to, he may well have rained karate chops on those creating mayhem over the Telangana bill. Or even given them a black eye or two by landing trained boxer’s punches in their faces.
“I didn’t even raise my hand when so many Congress MPs attacked me in the House. I showed considerable restraint,” said the 50-year-old, who goes gymming every day and is trained in karate and boxing.
“I carry pepper spray primarily for self-defence, not as a licensed weapon. The idea was to disperse people who attacked me and not to hurt anyone…. But everyone saw how I was attacked,” added the pro-Telangana MP, not a scratch visible on his person or any sign of injury from the alleged attack.
“I am fit. I keep myself in good shape. That is the reason why I could fight off so many people. But I used my strength to be defensive and not offensive.”
Reiterating that he carried pepper spray because it was a “legal, non-lethal defensive device”, Rajagopal today said he was sorry if anyone got injured in the pepper-spray melee. “I will individually seek their apology.”
Similar outbursts of passion by the Vijayawada MP are, however, not unknown. He was apparently expelled from a Vijayawada college after one such incident.
“Those are things of the past now. I am against any kind of disruption in Parliament. I even moved a private member’s bill in 2009, seeking disqualification of MPs who disrupt proceedings,” he said.
“However, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure order in the House and not to instigate MPs to fisticuffs. It was morally and ethically wrong to present such a sensitive bill amid such din.”
A mechanical engineer and businessman, Rajagopal joined the Congress in 2002. In December 2009, he created a stir when he escaped from Vijayawada Government Hospital where he was admitted after being arrested for starting a hunger strike for a united Andhra. This led to the suspension of several police officers, including the city police commissioner.
“Everyone knows my stand on Telangana. I have never wavered. I had resigned as MP once in August 2013 and then again in October. But the Speaker refused to accept my resignation.
“Then on several occasions, I moved no-confidence motions against this government, but she refused again giving the excuse that the House wasn’t in order. She has never even tried to get the House in order once,” Rajagopal claimed.
Son-in-law of former Union minister Parvathaneni Upendra, who was information minister in the I.K. Gujral regime, Rajagopal claimed he was a “grassroots politician” and had “given up all posts” in the family-owned Rs 15,000-crore Lanco group of companies he headed till 2003.
All he had now was a “minor stake” in the companies — which runs power projects, real estate ventures, sponge iron companies and civil works — that he had left to his siblings, he claimed.
However, according to his personal affidavit, his assets are worth around Rs 229 crore. He is known to be one of the richest MP in the 15th Lok Sabha.
Rumoured to be in talks with Andhra chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy for a Samaikyandhra party, Rajagopal laid the blame for yesterday’s Parliament ruckus squarely on the Congress.
“I don’t care for my political future. I cannot betray my people. The Congress selectively kept its senior leadership away from the House to escape the impact of introducing the Telangana bill. This shows their reality,” he said, alluding to the absence of the Prime Minister and Sonia and Rahul Gandhi yesterday.
“My people gave the Congress the power to rule in Delhi. I cannot support this move of the party,” he said, before leaving for the airport to take a flight back home.