Rajya Sabha bids farewell to 54 members

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The Hindu, February 19, 2014

The Lok Sabha recently turned into a theatre of sorts with pepper storms, microphone-snatching, glass-breaking on tables and allegedly even knife-wielding. The state legislatures have kept the show running, with MLAs in the UP Assembly taking off their shirts and their J&K counterparts slapping marshals. But our lawmakers are not alone in using drama to draw attention to or protest against issues. Elsewhere, around the world, parliamentarians have fought with items ranging from water bottles and eggs to chairs, shoes and iPads. They?ve sprayed teargas, wrestled on the floor, and even pulled the trigger. A lowdown on recent parliamentary disruptions:

UKRAINE: The scene in the Eastern European country?s parliament last month mirrored the current violent protests on the street. A debate on the country?s budget in the House descended into fistfights between pro-Russia and pro-EU MPs. The brawl left pro-Russia MP Vladimir Malyshev bleeding from his forehead, requiring medical attention. In December 2010, at least six MPs were rushed to a hospital after chairs were thrown at opposition members, and in April that year, the speaker hid behind an umbrella while eggs and smoke bombs were hurled in protest against a naval deal with Russia.

TURKEY: A few days ago, the Grand National Assembly saw a fight on the floor ? which left one lawmaker with a broken finger and another with a bloodied nose ? before passing a controversial new Bill that gives the government greater control over the judiciary. In January, members of the legislative body fought over the same Bill, throwing punches, water bottles, notebooks and even an iPad at each other. ?One MP leapt on a table and launched a flying kick as others wrestled and punched at each other, with document folders, plastic water bottles and even an iPad flying through the air,? said a Reuters report.

JORDAN: In September last year, Jordanian MP Talal Al Sharif tried to shoot another politician, Qusay Dmeisi, during a session in the House of Representatives. The men were arguing over the budget, and other MPs had to rein in Al Sharif, who appeared to take off his shoes and belt from a video footage that emerged after the fracas. Dmeisi, in order to make peace, tried to shake hands with Al-Sharif. But when Al-Sharif budged and agreed to the handshake, Dmeisi slapped him. An infuriated Al Sharif left the House and returned with an AK-47 rifle. The guards attempted to stop him, but he fired three shots from the hallway, hitting the ceiling and a wall. Al-Sharif was arrested and imprisoned for 14 days on charges of attempt to murder, unlicensed possession of a firearm, and resisting security forces. After his release, the House expelled him, and suspended Dmeisi for a year. In another incident in 2013, a Jordanian MP, Shadi al-Edwan, attempted to pull out a pistol in the building during a bitter dispute over rising fuel prices.

TAIWAN: In August 2013, as the Taiwanese parliament was preparing for a vote on whether to hold a referendum on building a nuclear power plant, the MPs got into a brawl. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party battled with members of the ruling Kuomintang, exchanging punches and throwing cups and bottles of water at each other. Two MPs wrestled on the floor briefly. An opposition legislator was even seen wearing a motorcycle helmet in the video of the event. In June last year, lawmakers threw coffee over each other during a row over a capital-gains tax proposal.

VENEZUELA: Venezuelan legislators descended into a fistfight in the National Assembly in May 2013 over disputed elections in the South American country. Pro-government and opposition lawmakers threw punches, and flung tables, chairs and laptops at each other. Half a dozen of them were left with bruised and bloodied faces after the brawl. Videos of the scuffle were released online by opposition lawmakers. The opposition had rejected the results of the April 14 presidential vote, which Hugo Chavez?s chosen heir, Nicolas Maduro, had won by a narrow margin. The fracas came after the government-controlled assembly denied opposition members the right to speak in the chamber until they recognised Maduro as president.

SOUTH KOREA: The country?s parliament has witnessed a series of uproarious scenes. In December 2008, for example, ruling MPs stacked furniture to form a barricade in front of a room where a parliamentary committee was signing a free trade bill with the US. The opposition MPs, armed with sledgehammers and hoses, tried to break in, but were blasted with fire extinguishers by the ruling party. In July 2009, the opposition parties used the same tactic to stall the passage of a media reforms Bill. They stacked up furniture to block ruling party members from entering the main hall of the National Assembly. The parliament plunged into chaos, as lawmakers shouted abuses at each other. Women lawmakers were seen grabbing each other by the neck and trying to bring opponents to the floor. A similar scene played out in December 2010, with furniture being stacked and members diving to reach the speaker?s podium. The worst was yet to come though. In November 2011, an opposition MP set off a teargas canister to prevent the ruling party from passing a free trade deal with the US. The outrageous act, however, failed to prevent the sealing of the deal.

AFGHANISTAN: In July 2011, two women MPs got into a tussle over a debate on rocket attacks into the country from Pakistan. Nazifa Zaki, a former army general, threw her shoe at fellow MP Hamida Ahmadzai. When Gen Zaki left her seat in parliament and headed towards Ms Ahmadzai, the latter threw a plastic water bottle at her. Gen Zaki then punched her and the two rivals got into a fight before other MPs intervened.

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