New Delhi: In a new low in India's parliamentary history, pepper spray was used in the Lok Sabha resulting in hospitalisation of four MPs following a ruckus over introduction of the Telangana bill after which 16 MPs were suspended.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar expressed anguish over the incidents saying it has 'shamed the country and Parliament and called it a 'blot'.
Unprecedented pandemonium broke out in the House when expelled Congress member Lagadapati Rajagopal, an industrialist and one opposed to the division of Andhra Pradesh, brought a canister from which he sprayed pepper.
Three MPs - Vinay Kumar Pande, Ponnam Prabhakar and Balram Nai - suffered from suffocation, irritation in their eyes and heavy coughing following which they were taken to nearby Government Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for treatment. They were later discharged.
Later, TDP member K. Narayana Rao was rushed to RML Hospital as he collapsed in Lok Sabha after apparently consuming something. Doctors attending to him at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital said Rao suffered from palpitation (abnormality of heartbeat) and is under observation.
Many other MPs were seen coming out of the House with watery eyes and were feeling suffocated. Ambulances were pressed into service.
Ambulance in Parliament premises after MPs felt uncomfortable after the pepper spray attack - ANI photo via Twitter
Another anti-Telangana member M. Venugopal Reddy (TDP) broke the mike of the House Secretary General and a computer screen was broken in the 'well' as members from either side of the divide came to blows when Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde stood up to introduce the bill for reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh.
Rajya Sabha also witnessed Uproarious scenes with members staging protests in the Well over Telangana statehood issue and a TDP member trying to snatch the mike of the Chair.
In the ruckus over the issue, TDP MP C.M. Ramesh tried to uproot the mike from the podium, the Chair adjourned the House till afternoon and finally for the day till Monday.
A visibly upset Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien was heard saying, "Yes, you continute...If this is democracy, you continue."
The seemandhra MPs, protesting against creation of Telangana, sought to stall introduction of the bill for which Shinde later claimed has been tabled but was disputed by BJP and other opposition parties.
The unprecedented action of the protesting MPs triggered all round denunciation with the Speaker saying "It has shamed us, shamed us. India's parliamentary democracy is respected throughout the world. Today what has happened is a blot."
NDA Chairman and BJP veteran L.K. Advani said what happened in the House was disgraceful not only for the government but Parliament and blamed the ruling dispensation for it.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath condemned the behaviour of the MPs and said Speaker would take action.
There was also a blame game with Nath accusing BJP of changing its stand and opposing the bill while also declaring its support. "BJP has been totally exposed," he said.
But Advani and Leaders of Opposition in both the Houses Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley accused the government of not doing proper home work and indulging in this 'drama'.
The Well of the Lok Sabha turned into a battle ground as fisticuffs broke out between members from Seemandhra and others, including Raj Babbar, Azharuddin, Lal Singh (all Cong) and Saugata Roy (TMC), who wanted to prevent disruptions in the House.
After damaging the mike, Reddy (TDP) snatched papers from the Speaker's podium, while Rajagopal broke the glass on the table and used the pepper spray.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar leaves after she felt sickness due to the pepper gas attack - PTI
In the afternoon, Meira Kumar cracked the whip and suspended 16 MPs, who are against division of Andhra Pradesh, for rest of the session following the scenes of pandemonium.
Kumar named 18 members who were asked to withdraw from the House. Later, Lok Sabha Secretariat issued a circular in which the names of Suresh Kumar Shetkar (pro-Telangana) and K Bappi Raju (Seemandhra) were deleted. The suspended members cannot enter the House, inner lobby and galleries.
They cannot participate in the meetings of Parliamentary Committees and cannot vote in committees during the suspension till February 20, the penultimate day of the 15h Lok Sabha.
Kumar announced the decision soon after the House met at 2 PM when she named the members.
They were suspended under Rule 374 A which says that a member can 'be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session' for disregarding 'the authority of the Chair or abusing the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing business'.
It looked after the suspension of the MPs that the House could function and pave the way for consideration of the Telangana bill at a later stage but trouble continued the the House was adjourned till Monday. Rajya Sabha also was adjourned till Monday.
After the adjournment opposition parties insisted that they do not accept that the bill had been introduced because proper procedures were not followed.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj led a delegation of leaders of Samajwadi Party, CPI, BJD, TMC AIADMK to the Speaker Kumar to convey their stand.
"Government has claimed that the Bill has been introduced, but we do not accept," Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj told reporters after the meeting with the Speaker.
"I was sitting in the House even after the spray incident and wanted to stay inside till I was advised by marshals to leave as it could cause harm to my health. As long as I was inside the House, not even an 'I' of the Bill was read. I don't know when was the bill introduced," she said.
Other party leaders, who accompanied Swaraj, said they do not accept the introduction of Telangana bill. YSR Congress chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy was the first to raise questions over the introduction of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill.
He said it was a 'mockery' to say that the bill has been introduced as the whole thing was over in ten seconds and there were no 'ayes' and 'noes'.
Reddy, whose party is staunchly opposed to the division of Andhra Pradesh, said they would move court in the matter. But TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao insisted that the bill has been introduced as rules followed.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who introduced the Bill, said it is now 'the property of the House'.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Law Minister Kapil Sibal also said that the bill has been introduced. Trinamool Congress parliamentary party chief Sudip Bandopadhyay earlier attacked the Congress and the government for not listing the bill in today's list of business.
"It is not even mentioned in the supplementary list of business of Lok Sabha. This is highly irregular. Most MPs were in the dark on the issue and Congress has made a mess of it," he said.
Swaraj said they would not talk to the government on the bill any more.
The high drama at noon took place soon after the House assembled after one adjournment when the government wanted to take everybody by surprise by introducing the bill which is being strongly opposed to by members, including those belonging to Congress, from Seemandhra region.
Such is the sentiment against the bill that four Union Ministers took the unprecedented step of trooping into the Well of the House yesterday to protest the bifurcation.
Though Treasury benches had made arrangements to prevent disturbance by positioning members like Raj Babbar, Azharuddin and Lal Singh near the Well, M. Venugopal Reddy (TDP) broke the mike on the Secretary General's table.
Reddy was immediately overpowered by other members by when Rajagopal broke the glass on the Secretary General's table. Soon after, Rajagopal sprayed the pepper spray near the podium causing commotion and coughing.
TMC veteran Saugata Roy, while feeling choked, was seen trying to control the unruly members in the Well. Soon other members started coughing uncontrollably.
Rajagopal was attacked by some members and it was hard time for the watch and ward staff to rescue him and take him to the office of the Speaker.
The smell of the spray was so strong that its impact was felt even outside the House.
Rajagopal was expelled from Congress along with five other members from the Seemandhra region only two days back for their persistent defiance on the Telangana issue and even giving notices of no-confidence against the Manmohan Singh government.
PM Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were not present in the House on Thursday.