New Delhi: Breaking into a group of officials and journalists, a youth today 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 Sukh Ram 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 today.
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 today'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.