The Parliament building was witness to unruly scenes as MPs of two regional parties – Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Telugu Desam (TDP) – squabbled over a room that has been allotted to TMC but has been in the possession of TDP for 30 years. While Round 1 went to TMC, which forcibly occupied Room 5 on Tuesday afternoon, Round 2 went to TDP, which regained possession of the room a few hours later. The matter has not yet been resolved.
The standoff began at 2pm when TMC MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Sultan Ahmed, Saugata Roy, Satabdi Roy and Dinesh Trivedi reached Room 5 and brandished a letter from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, dated August 6, that said the room had been allotted to TMC “during the tenure of 16th Lok Sabha” and requested the party to “occupy the allotted accommodation/room at the earliest”.
“It is for the first time that we have got a room in the Parliament House. Even in the last Lok Sabha, our party functioned without a room in the House,” Ahmed told the Indian Express.
The MPs then attempted to take over the room, to the surprise of the TDP office staff inside. The TDP nameplates outside were removed and replaced by TMC nameplates, while the staff inside hurriedly called their party MPs on the phone.
Soon enough, the TDP MPs rushed to reclaim the room that had been theirs since 1984 and to which they had an “emotional attachment”.
“We have been told that we have been given room nos. 135 and 136 on the third floor. But we don’t want to shift from this room since we have been here for 30 years now,” said a TDP member.
The party provided copies of a letter that TDP parliamentary party leader Y S Chowdary had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on August 11, asking that the party be allowed to continue in Room 5.
By 4pm the TDP nameplates were re-installed at the room entrance, despite the war of words with TMC MPs.
Chowdary later told the Indian Express, “This is nothing but rowdyism. We thought that they (TMC) are very well educated and cultured people…. Day before yesterday they had given letter. Even if you are a tenant, you still have time. We have given the letter to the Speaker and waiting for the reply.”
This game of musical chairs has affected several regional parties, following their shifting fortunes in the recent election. Those with reduced parliamentary seats are often finding their room allotted to another party.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat has reportedly asked the CPM to move out of its present office (Rooms135 and 136 on the third floor) to Room 129, which is currently occupied by the RJD. Meanwhile, the CPI, whose strength has come down to three seats, has been asked to vacate its office in Room 127, which has now been allocated to the LJP, a member of the ruling NDA. The JD(U), which has its office near the lobby, has been asked to move to a smaller office.
The location and size of a party’s room in Parliament often reveals its political status and position on the pecking order. Since there are many regional parties jostling for space, it’s no wonder then that MPs are keen to get a coveted room quickly or to protect the one they already have.
Parliament is therefore likely to witness more frayed tempers and nameplate changes.