Sonia fights back after SP snatches Bill

Sonia Gandhi
IN scenes considered unprecedented in the Lok Sabha, UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday led party members in a scuffle with their Samajwadi Party counterparts after a SP MP snatched the copy of the SC/ST quota in promotions bill from minister V Narayanasamy as he introduced it.

As soon as Narayanasamy stood to introduce the Constitution Amendment Bill for consideration and passing at 3 pm, SP MP from Nagina, Yashvir Singh, walked up to the minister and snatched the copy in his hand before joining party colleagues protesting in the well of the House.

Even before other Congress MPs could react, Sonia left her seat and walked into the well to try and snatch the bill back from Singh. But Singh passed it on to party colleague Neeraj Shekhar (Ballia) who promptly tore it. An agitated Sonia stood in the well before Congress members Vilas Muttemvar and K Bapi Raju rushed aggressively to pounce on Singh.

However, Shekhar and another SP member, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, formed a human shield to avoid more trouble despite aggressive gestures from Congress members who had rushed to the well. Sonia, meanwhile, was seen suggesting to Narayanasamy to continue with his speech from another copy of the Bill.

Taken aback by the turn of events, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House for the day, leaving SP and Congress members trading charges over what had happened. Sonia briefly watched them before going to Kumar's chamber. Earlier, SP members had disrupted question hour and forced adjournments in the morning, at noon as well as at 2 pm.

BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey, Yogi Adityanath and Hukumdev Narayan Yadav were later seen blaming Congress members for allegedly manhandling SP members. Members from across political parties, including Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath, met SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav soon after to calm down tempers.

Subsequently, Yadav held a closed-door meeting of party MPs before making a statement to the media. He had also sent party MPs to the broadcasting chamber of Lok Sabha TV channel to see footage of the incident but the MPs returned empty handed.

Yadav put up a brave front as he stuck to the party's opposition to the Bill and sounded unapologetic about the incident, blaming the Congress for "insulting" his party MP without naming Sonia Gandhi. "Congress has insulted our MP. Our MP was beaten and now the channel has deleted the clipping. What was done to our MP is insulting," he told reporters with Singh on his side.

"It is our MP who was manhandled and you expect us to apologise? What are you talking?" Yadav told The Indian Express on his way out of the Parliament. Kamal Nath, however, sought to blame the SP members and criticised their behaviour as undemocratic.

"In democracy, if you are against something, you vote against it. But you can't do this. I condemn it. If they show such an attitude, there is no need for democracy or Parliament or the media. We will urge the speaker to condemn it and take action against the member," Nath told reporters.

He also asserted that the government will push the Bill through Lok Sabha on the last day of the winter session on Thursday. "The Bill will be taken up tomorrow when the House meets," Nath said.

The SP chief, however, indicated that his party will continue its opposition. "Our struggle will continue. This is an unconstitutional bill. Congress is forcefully trying to bring it. When the Congress goes to the people it will realise the serious repercussions," Yadav said.

While the BJP deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Gopinath Munde, termed the incident as "unfortunate", he blamed the Congress and "condemned" its behaviour. Given internal differences within the BJP with a large number of its Lok Sabha members opposed to the Bill, the attempt by several BJP members to blame Congress further indicated their aversion to support the Bill despite the party's support to it in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

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