Sharad slap unites Indian politicians

New Delhi : In a rare show of unity, political parties Friday spoke in one voice, “strongly” condemning the assault by a Delhi man on union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and vowing to fight against “anti-democratic” forces in the country.

Cutting across their ideological and political differences, MPs demanded the government punish Harvinder Singh who slapped Pawar Thursday to protest rising food prices and corruption.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is the leader of the Lok Sabha, moved a resolution condemning the act after Speaker Meira Kumar expressed “unequivocal disapproval of taking recourse to violent and undemocratic means to express disagreement”.

Earlier, when the Lok Sabha met for the day, several members walked up to Pawar’s seat in the front benches to express solidarity with him.

Moving the resolution, Mukherjee said people could have divergent views, “but resorting to violence cannot be accepted in any democratic country”.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj agreed and said: “We condemn this. We have differences with the government on policies but there is a way to express difference. Violence is no means.”

She praised Pawar as a “polite” politician who has “never hurt anybody with his words”.

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Sharad Yadav said some “lumpen elements in our country” were trying to destroy the democratic fabric of India.

“There are undemocratic forces behind this. We politicians serve the people 24 hours a day. But an environment is being created in this nation to create disbelief on politicians… If this is not stopped, it will curb our hard-earned freedom,” he said.

Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said incidents like this were “dangerous for democratic institutions. This is an insult to democracy.”

Leaders of various political parties, including the Shiv Sena, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) also condemned the attack and asked the government to severly punish Pawar’s attacker to send a message that anti-democratic forces would be curbed in India.

“The government should think of severe punishment. A unanimous decision will send a strong message to these elements,” Trinamool Congress’ Sudip Bandopadhyay said.

Shiv Sena’s Anant Gangaram Geete said the attacker “should be punished so that others get lessons”.

Members also condemned Anna Hazare’s comment on the attack on the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader.

Reacting on the incident, Hazare, who has for long held politicians responsible for much of the ills of the country, had said: “Was it only one slap?”

Gurudas Dasgupta of the Communist Party of India (CPI) said in the house: “Hazare is very wrong.” The social activist also came under attack from Samajwadi Party and BSP leaders.

The house also condemned the way the media played up the incident.

“I don’t appreciate the electronic media repeatedly showing how he was being slapped. You are sensationalising the issue. Let’s not publicise the incident which should be condemned. The house should take note of this also.”

However, the unity in the house didn’t last longer. Opposition protests against the government’s decision to allow 51 percent foreign equity in the retail sector erupted as soon as the MPs finished speaking, forcing adjournment of the house for the day.

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