In an unprecedented incident, MNS MLAs attacked Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Azmi inside the state assembly on Monday, for taking oath in Hindi and not in Marathi marking a violent debut for Raj Thackeray's party in the House.
Stung by what Chief Minister Ashok Chavan called as "goondagardi"(hooliganism) by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena never witnessed in the House, the Assembly acted tough and passed a resolution suspending four MNS members from the House for four years within hours after the chaos. The MLAs were also accused of misbehaving with a woman MLA.
The resolution moved by parliamentary affairs minister Harshvardhan Patil to suspend Shishir Shinde, Ramesh Vanjale,Ram Kadam and Vasant Geete was approved by voice vote.
Stating that hooliganism will not be tolerated, Chavan also did not rule out action against MNS chief Raj Thackeray saying this will be taken if the video footage of his reported comments outside the Assembly showed he had instigated his party MLAs. The three-year-old MNS, which returned 13 members to the House, all first timers, unleashed chaos during the oath taking by the new MLAs in a turbulent start to the maiden session of the 12th state Assembly.
The proceedings in the backdrop of the so-called diktat by Raj Thackeray that all members must take oath in Marathi or face consequences went on smoothly until Azmi's turn came when he was manhandled by MNS members who pushed and punched him for insisting that he will take oath only in Hindi.
Ram Kadam allegedly slapped and hit Azmi on the chest and shoulders while Ramesh Vanjale snatched the microphone and uprooted the podium as a result of which the paper from which he was reading out his oath fell.
As Azmi began reading out the oath in Hindi, the MNS members tried to shout him down and asked him to switch over to Marathi. When Azmi remained defiant, they menacingly advanced towards him.
The SP leader, who picked the paper up and continued reading out the oath, was seen engaged in a heated argument with the MNS legislators as the House was drowned in din leading to a 30-minute adjournment. As Azmi was being roughed up, some MNS members were seen carrying banners and shouting pro-Marathi slogans. MNS MLAs surrounded Azmi from all sides when the House had hardly been adjourned.
Ashok Chavan and energy minister Ajit Pawar rushed to calm the frayed tempers. Speaking to reporters outside the House, an unfazed Azmi defended his decision of taking oath in Hindi and said he had done nothing to warrant such action by the MNS MLAs.
But an unrepentant Ram Kadam justified his action saying Azmi's insistence on taking oath in Hindi betrayed his lack of respect for Marathi language and people. The incident evoked widespread condemnation across the political spectrum with demands being made for stern action against the erring MNS MLAS.
Ashok Chavan said Constitution of India allowed members to take oath in any language. The four suspended members will not be allowed to enter the premises of the Assembly in Mumbai and Nagpur, he said. Buoyed by the impressive Assembly debut of his party, Raj had recently announced his legislators would ensure that all MLAs took oath in Marathi taking the politics of regional chauvnism straight to the Assembly. "If any MLA does not take oath in Marathi, the House will see what happens," Raj had threatened. Raj issued a reminder today, asking all 287 MLAs in the House to take oath in Marathi.