Samajwadi Party MP Yashveer Singh literally stopped Lok Sabha proceedings mid-sentence today when he snatched the quota for promotions bill that Minister V Narayanasamy was reading, from his hand. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was sitting next to the minster, went towards Singh and held him. "What are you doing?" asked an angry Mrs Gandhi to Mr Singh as she tried to take back the papers back from the SP man, but could not.
As Mr Singh shrugged the Congress President off and thereby making her lose her balance, senior Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar and Bapi Raju rushed towards Mr Singh.
The Samajwadi party alleged that Mr Muttemwar manhandled him, a charge denied by the Congress MP. "I went only to protect our leader," he said.
The House had to be adjourned for the day amid much uproar.
The quota bill, which seeks to provide reservation in government job promotions for Dalits and tribals has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha, and was to have come up for a vote in the Lok Sabha today. Mr Narayanasamy had just begun putting the Bill up for consideration, when several SP members charged at him and attempted to snatch the Bill.
Yashveer Singh succeeded, plucking it cleanly out of the hands of a shocked minister, who stood agape. Sonia Gandhi then attempted to take the papers back, but couldn't. The usually unflappable parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath was livid as he said outside the House, "this is a sad day for parliamentary democracy; in my 32 years in the Lok Sabha I haven't seen this".
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is a Lok Sabha MP too, was far from apologetic. Instead, he "condemned" the Congressmen for the "attack on our MPs". Mr Yadav's party has been disrupting both Houses of parliament for days now to register its protest against the bill. The Rajya Sabha passed it by an overwhelming majority - only the SP voted against it. The party has since been trying to ensure that the lower house does not pass it in this session, which ends tomorrow.
Mr Kamal Nath has said the government is committed to bringing the Bill for a vote in the Lok Sabha too but with Mr Yadav making it clear that "we continue to oppose the Bill...just on the basis of numerical majority government cannot do what it wants." With his party unlikely to let it come up tomorrow either, the Bill looks set to be shelved.
The SP provides external support to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, but has been bitter about the rush to pass the quota in promotions Bill which has been promoted chiefly by its rival in UP Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party. Mr Yadav is worried that it will affect the other backward classes and Muslim vote, the major chunk of his vote bank. He, however, stopped short of linking his opposition to the quota bill to withdrawal of support to the government he helps prop up. "There is time for that, we condemn what happens today."