New Delhi: L Rajagopal, the man who used pepper spray in Parliament, says he acted in self-defence. He is among the richest MPs from Andhra Pradesh, with 300 crores to his name according to his affidavit to the Election Commission in 2009.
The 53-year-old parliamentarian from Vijayawada today walked into the Lok Sabha armed with a spray can, and during a fight between MPs, pulled it out and aimed it indiscriminately across the house.
MPs rushed out the house holding handkerchiefs to their eyes and nose. Many MPs, including Mr Rajagopal, were taken to hospital with complaints of burning eyes and coughing.
“I did it in self-defence. They pounced on whoever opposed the Telangana bill. I would have done the same thing anywhere. It’s not a lethal weapon,” the MP said, claiming that he has carried pepper spray for protection in the past.
Mr Rajagopal was among the six MPs expelled by the Congress for moving a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the proposal to split Andhra Pradesh and create Telangana.
These MPs belong to Seemandhra, or the non-Telangana region that is vehemently opposed to bifurcation. Mr Rajagopal said he would do all he can to block the Telangana bill in Parliament.
Mr Rajagopal has always displayed a flair for drama. In December 2009, he sat on a protest fast for more than a week against Telangana, holding the national flag, and emerged as one of the most prominent faces of the United Andhra Pradesh movement.
When his condition worsened during the fast, Mr Rajagopal was arrested and forcibly taken to hospital. But he managed a late-night ‘escape’ from the hospital despite scores of policemen standing guard.
He was the first Andhra Pradesh MPs to send in his resignation as soon as the Centre announced its plans to carve out Telangana in 2009.
Mr Rajagopal is a mechanical engineer. In 1986, he married the daughter of Congress leader P Upendra in early nineties and in 2002, quit his job with a private company to join politics.
He won the Vijayawada seat for the first time in 2004, and retained it in 2009.
Mr Rajagopal’s critics alleged that his opposition to the division of Andhra Pradesh has been linked to his personal interests; he is believed to have massive investments in Hyderabad and parts of Telangana. The MP has denied it.