New Delhi: The Congress MPs rushed into the Lok Sabha well on Friday with a scuffle short of exchanging blows with the BJP MPs surrounding Health and Science Minister Harsh Vardhan, sitting in the second row, to protect him from a physical assault during the Question Hour.
Speaker Om Birla quickly adjourned the House till 1 pm as the two sides were engaged in a physical scuffle even as ministers and MPs of various parties intervened to prevent an ugly fight. At 1 pm, the House was adjourned till 2 pm and then DMK MP A Raja in the chair adjourned for the day, but not before Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi condemned the Congress MPs trying to attack the minister.
Provocation to the Congress MPs losing patience came from Minister Harsh Vardhan, who went out of the way to attack former party president Rahul Gandhi instead of replying to his question on a medical college in his Wayanad constituency in Kerala.
"Sir, please excuse me. Before I begin answering this question of dear Shri Rahul Gandhi ji. I want to condemn in no uncertain words the outlandish language that he had used against the Prime Minister of the country," the minister said ignoring Speaker Om Birla repeatedly telling him to stick to the question asked.
The minister had come prepared with a written statement that he went on reading unconcerned by the commotion and protests on a statement referred by PM Modi on Thursday on a Congress leader talking of the youths desperate over no jobs assaulting him with a "danda" (big stick) after six months.
Congress MP Manickam Tagore,44, was aggressively trying to reach out to the minister who was saved by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, catching his arm to prevent the assault. Congress MP Hibi Eden from Kerala tried to remove Singh's grip on Tagore's hand. What followed was both sides nearly coming to the blows, but for intervention by others, including Minister Smriti Irani sitting two benches away in the front shouting: "What is going on? What are you doing."
Rahul Gandhi watched the ruckus from his seat in the second row and later denied any attack or attempt by his party colleague Manik as he calls Tagore on anybody and told reporters that the whole drama enacted by the minister and the BJP MPs rushing to the well was an "orchestrated" ruckus to prevent him from asking questions. He insisted that Tagore was rather roughed up by the BJP members.
Though the PM had not named Rahul Gandhi in his reference in the Lok Sabha on Thursday to threat of "danda" attack, Minister Harsh Vardhan asserted in the written note "in a recent speech, he (Rahul) used works like 6 mahino baad, is desh ka yuva, Narendra Modi ko dande maar maar ke desh se bahar karega (after six months, youth of the country would beat Modi with big sticks and throw him out of the country)."
"I don't think in the worst of cases, our party leaders have made such outlandish personal remarks against a prime minister, threatening to beat him with dandas (sticks) and throwing him out of the country," said Harsh Vardhan who is a BJP MP from Chandni Chowk in Delhi.
"The entire House present here must in unequivocal terms condemn his remarks against our prime minister. We demand," he said and then tried to answer Rahul's question that was drowned in the BJP MPs' chorus in his support demanding Rahul's apology and expulsion from the House and the ruckus that broke out in the House that was going on peacefully for the first 50 minutes.
Slogans of "Sadan se bahar karo, mafi mango (expel him from the House and seek his apology)" and "Rahul Gandhi mafi mango" ranted the House. The Congress MPs said most shocking was the minister's conduct to rake up the remarks of Rahul at a poll rally in Delhi early this week. The MPs do misbehave in this manner, but not expected of a minister, the Congress MPs said.
Talking to reporters in the Parliament House precincts, Rahul said the ruckus was orchestrated against him. He also tweeted that all this was designed to prevent him from speaking against the government. His voice is being stifled in the House and the Opposition members are getting frustrated as they are not allowed to speak and sidelined, he said.
He said he wanted to raise the issue of Wayanad not having a medical college. "However, the BJP doesn't want me to speak in the House and so in a completely unparliamentary manner the Health Minister raised the issue (danda attack on PM) which happened outside the House and had no business here in Parliament."
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, however, reacted sharply, telling reporters after the House was adjourned for the day that the Congress MPs thought they can live up to their leader's 'danda' comment in making an attempt to manhandle Dr Harsh Vardhan. "This shows the frustration level of Congress and it is height of gundaism," he added.