Vadodra: Congress MP from Porbandar in Gujarat, Vitthalbhai Radadiya, has been caught on camera pulling out a rifle, brandishing it and threatening employees at a toll plaza near Vadorara. The MP has refused to apologise, justifying what he did by saying he acted in self defense, though no other person is seen anywhere near him on camera for most part. "I am an MP, I deserve respect," he said today. The Congress has asked him for an explanation. (Watch: Congress MP defends pulling out his gun)
After widespread outrage, a first information report has been registered against Mr Radadiya under the Arms Act and for threatening people.
The incident happened at a toll plaza in Karjan village late last night, when the politician's car, on the way to Surat, stopped at the toll booth. In visuals that his own party has described as "disturbing," the bearded MP, dressed in white, is seen on video strutting around a car with the gun, occasionally raising it and pointing it at people, poking the toll booth with it, clearly agitated. The toll booth employees claim he even threatened to kill the employee.
Today Mr Radadiya recounted to NDTV, with an injured air, how his car was stopped at the plaza despite him being an MP. "MPs don't have to pay toll," he said, clearly astonished that he was stopped. The toll attendant reportedly asked to see his original identity card and the due diligence did not agree with the MP. "When I got down I was called a bogus MP. If a person calls me a bogus MP, they say my card is false, what do I do?" he said indignantly.
Mr Radadiya was irked that "a man who earns 100 rupees" had the temerity to ask him for toll. Asked repeatedly why he would bring out a gun over paying toll, Mr Radadiya said he had felt threatened. He claims that about 15 people had surrounded his car and so he had to grab the gun for self defence - "Are people free to attack us? I acted in self defense. Where is the police on a highway...Anything can be possible on the highway, people get looted and women are raped," he said.
The MP said the gun belongs to him and he has a licence for it. "Porbandar is a sensitive area and we need it for protection," he said. He soon slammed the phone down on NDTV.
The toll booth employees, who ran for cover as the MP brandished the gun last night, have filed a police complaint that the attendant asked for the MP's identity card and the driver showed him a photocopy. When the toll attendant asked for the original, they said, Mr Radadiya angrily stepped out of the car with the gun in hand and indulged in his show of power.
Other commuters passing through the toll plaza were reportedly too afraid to step out of their cars. Several cars whizzed past without stopping to pay toll.
The Congress' Manish Tewari today cautiously said that while the visuals being aired by news channels were "disturbing", the Congress always gave everyone an opportunity to explain and had given Mr Radadiya one such chance. Mr Tewari said the party had also asked the Gujarat state Congress unit for an explanation.
The party's Gujarat unit has promised to investigate the matter. It will no doubt keep in mind that elections are less than two months away and Mr Radadiya is a powerful leader from the Saurashtra region and is tasked with organizing big crowds for important party rallies, among other things.