The Andhra Pradesh Assembly was on Thursday disrupted by the Opposition, which led to the suspension of 57 TDP legislators, demanding State Revenue Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao’s resignation over the police firing on villagers opposing a power plant in Srikakulam district.
As many as 57 TDP legislators were suspended for the day from the House as they repeatedly prevented the minister from reacting to the charges made against him.
The House was stuck in pandemonium for more than 25 minutes, as the suspended TDP members refused to go out and resisted the move to evict them with the help of marshals.
The legislators, however, were forcibly removed by the marshals from the House.
A couple of TDP members ripped about eight mikes while they were being dragged out of the House.
Earlier, the opposition Telugu Desam and Praja Rajyam parties demanded payment of Rs. 10 lakh as compensation each to the kin of those killed while the CPI demanded Rs. 20 lakh.
The government, however, announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh each to the kin of deceased.
The BJP and the CPI(M) also joined the issue and strongly condemned the police firing. All the opposition parties also demanded a judicial probe by a sitting judge of the High Court into the incident.
Initiating a discussion on the issue after state Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy made a statement on the firing incident, TDP deputy leader M. Narasimhulu held Rao squarely responsible for the police firing.
“Mr. Dharmana has no right to continue as minister as he is solely responsible for the incident through his provocative statements. He should either step down or be dismissed from the Cabinet,” Mr. Narasimhulu said.
“Who gave you the right to shoot people to death,” he questioned the government.
PRP deputy leader Bandaru Satyananda Rao also blamed the government over the firing incident and questioned the need for allowing a private company to set up the thermal power plant when the locals were strongly opposing it.
The police firing appeared to be a pre-planned step, he alleged.
CPI leader K. Sambasiva Rao also lashed out at the Revenue Minister and demanded his resignation as he failed to protect the interests of people.
“These were pre-planned murders by the government. How many poor people will the government kill to favour a private company,” he fumed.
The CPI leader wanted Srikakulam district Collector and Superintendent of Police placed under suspension over the firing incident.
“Where was the need for deploying 3,000 police personnel with weapons when the locals were carrying out the protest peacefully for over 200 days? Why could it not convince the people about the project in an amicable manner,” BJP leader G. Kishan Reddy questioned.
CPI(M) leader J. Ranga Reddy questioned how police were deployed despite High Court orders against it.
Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy, however, said only 300 police personnel were deployed at the project site. She said police were attacked by the locals when they were returning after supervising the bandobust duties.
“Police acted only in self-defence and opened fire as there was no other option,” Ms. Sabita added.
Government Chief Whip M. Bhatti Vikramarka expressed regrets over the firing and conveyed sympathies to the bereaved families as well as those injured.
Reacting to the allegations against him, the Revenue Minister said not a single acre of government land was acquired for the project.
The TDP members rose to their feet and objected to the reply by the minister saying he has no right to speak.
As the TDP members came rushing into the Well, Speaker N. Kiran Kumar Reddy adjourned the House for ten minutes.
The TDP legislators continued their protest even after the House re-assembled.
The Speaker said the Revenue Minister had every right to reply as his name was repeatedly mentioned by the opposition members.
He warned the TDP members that he would have to name them if they did not resume their seats but the latter did not relent.
The Speaker then adjourned the proceedings for 15 more minutes.
After the TDP MLAs were evicted from the House, the Revenue Minister hit back at the principal opposition party saying it was indulging in cheap politics by misquoting his previous remarks on the thermal power project.
“We very much regret the firing incident. The government never wished or would ever wish such incidents to happen. But we want the power project to come up as it will help in the development of the most backward Srikakulam district,” Mr. Dharmana said.
Earlier, the Home Minister said in a statement in the House that two persons were killed in police firing while three others received bullet injuries.
About 86 civilians were injured while 53 policemen, including the additional SP and a trainee ASP, and six media personnel were also injured in the clash.
“The firing by police officers occurred on account of crowd encircling them and resorting to assault on them with stones and sticks. Firing was resorted to as a last resort in self-defence after lathicharge and tear gas usage did not control the situation,” Mr. Dharmana said.
The Visakhapatnam Range DIG and Srikakulam district SP were camping in Sompeta and monitoring the situation closely, Ms. Sabita said, adding that the situation was now under control.
The House was then adjourned sine die after the Home Minister’s reply.