New Delhi: Breaking into a group of officials and journalists, a youth on Thursday attacked Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar after a public event here shouting slogans against corruption and price rise, an action that was roundly condemned by political parties.
   
71-year-old Pawar, who went to a literary function at a public auditorium on Parliament Street, was caught unawares when he was slapped by Harvinder Singh, a local transporter in his thirties who had assaulted former Telecom Minister Sukhram outside a court on Saturday after he was sentenced in a corruption case.
   
The NCP veteran, who has very little security, lost his balance for a moment but regained composure after the assault, moved towards the exit of the auditorium and got into his waiting car.
   
Private security guards immediately overpowered the youth who was shouting "he is corrupt" and an official landed some blows on Singh.
   
"I came planned to the event to slap the minister," Singh told reporters who had gone to cover the literary function.    

"All of them are corrupt," he shouted when he was removed from security and policemen.
   
Wielding a small kirpan, the youth said things could have been worse but for the observance of martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur on Thursday.
   
Pawar himself sought to play down the incident saying he was not sure of what the intentions of the attacker could be and left it to police to handle the issue.
   
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Pawar after the incident and condemned the attack. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also said that the attack on Pawar was "totally condemnable". Pawar termed the incident stupid and that he did not make much out of it.
   
When asked whether he would press charges against the attacker, he said it was for police to deal with the matter.    

Pawar said he saw the youth standing in the midst of a group of journalists and could have taken advantage of the fact that he has very little security.
   
His daughter and NCP MP Supriya Sule said she does not want to blame anybody and asked her party workers to "forget and move ahead".
   
She said police will handle the matter and party activists should not react in any manner.
   
Leaders cutting across political lines condemned the attack saying it cannot be tolerated in a democracy.    

While Congress blamed the Tuesday statement of BJP leader Yashwant Singh that continued price rise in the "absence" of any concrete steps may become a reason for the people to vent their anger in the form of violence, opposition leaders said the government should take the issue of price rise seriously and address it.
   
Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi blamed BJP statement on Tuesday that continued price rise in the "absence" of any concrete steps may become a reason for the people to vent their anger in the form of violence.
   
"BJP has given a statement. This statement is responsible for on Thursday's incident," he told reporters.
   
BJP spokesman Ravishankar Prasad condemned the attack and said the attacker should be punished. He also said the government has not been doing nothing on the price situation and the price of gas, petroleum, food and vegetables has been going up.
   
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also spoke out against violence and said the attacker should be punished. The government also should take the price situation seriously, he said.

Political parties condemn slapping incident


The incident of slapping of Union Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday evoked wide condemnation from the political class, even as some opposition leaders warned the government that such incidents may increase if it did not take adequate steps to curb rising prices.
    
Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule, who was coming out of the Parliament rushed to see her father after hearing about the incident.
    
Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi blamed BJP for the "unfortunate" incident saying, "The incident was a result of the opposition party leader's statement made to incite the public.
    
"If the opposition party says that people will resort to violence due to rising prices, it means they are inciting the people of the country... If a political party incites the public like this, then it will have such results."
   
Alvi said, "All political parties and their leaders should be very careful in giving their statements," as they weaken democracy.
    
BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad, while condemning the incident said it is unfortunate that Congress feels that the opposition party is trying to incite the public. "It is not proper. It should not have happened. It is a security breach," he told reporters outside the Parliament.
    
Reacting to the Congress comments blaming the BJP for instigating violence, Prasad said, "If Congress thinks it is because of opposition's statements, we pity them for not being concerned about the public apathy and pain due to price rise.
People are on Thursday helpless and are feeling the pain of price rise for the last 3.5 years even when an economist Prime Minister is running the nation." Terming Alvi's comments as "irresponsible", Prasad said he should show restraint while making statements against a political party as his views are considered as those of the Congress since he is also the party spokesman.
    
Prasad also justified remarks by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha that an atmosphere of tension was prevailing in the country due to price rise.
    
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "It is totally condemnable and I think, I do not know where this country is going. These type of activities are not worth publicising."
    
Railways Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi said, "It is very unfortunate", but added "if it was just a spur of the moment, then I think he should be talked to and he should be explained things."
    
The Minister felt that taking any tough step against him also may not really solve anything.
    
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh said, these things are happening as the government was not fulfilling its responsibility.
    
"If the government does not fulfil its responsibility, and creates such an atmosphere which leads to anarchy and incidents of attack on even senior ministers of the Centre.... then the government has to answer," he told reporters outside the Parliament.
     
While stressing that the responsibility for the price rise rests on the governemnt, Singh, at the same time, maintained, "But the solution of price rise does not lie in attacking Sharad Pawar."
     
He rejected Congress allegation as "absurd" that the attack on Pawar has happened due to the provocative statements by Sinha.

Bedi condemns assault, calls for serious reflection

Team Anna member Kiran Bedi on Thursday condemned the attack on Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar but said one should analyse why such things happen to public functionaries.
   
"While condemning assault on public functionaries, (one) needs to analyse why is this happening and what must done to contain this...
   
"Assault on public functionaries calls for serious reflection at all levels of society including media forums," Bedi said in a tweet.
   
At public function here, Pawar was slapped by a youth who claimed he was angry with corruption and price rise.
   
Pawar was slapped by Harvinder Singh, a transporter in his thirties who had assaulted former Telecom Minister Sukhram outside Rohini Court on Saturday after he was sentenced in a corruption case.

(Agencies)