Video: Vasanthakumar was cut off while discussing COVID in Parliament

Congress MP H Vasanthakumar had suggested measures in Parliament to combat the crisis, but was abruptly interrupted and had his microphone cut off

Vasanthakumar, who is also an entrepreneur and runs the Vasanth & Co. enterprises, is the first sitting MP to die of COVID-19 in the country. Photo: Facebook

H Vasanthakumar (70), a Congress MP from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari who died on Friday (August 28) due to COVID-19, had tried to explain the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic in Parliament earlier this year, and had suggested measures to combat the crisis, but was abruptly interrupted and had his microphone cut off.

“Speaker sir, we have to announce a national disaster due to coronavirus affecting the whole nation. A zero-revenue situation will definitely impact the repayment of loans. I urge the government to reschedule the loan payment of small businessmen and individuals at least for three months,” Vasanthakumar had said during a session in March when parliament was still functioning.

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“Daily wagers have been adversely affected. I urge upon the government to pay a minimum of ₹ 2,000 per family…” he said, but was cut off by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, who asked another lawmaker to speak.

Vasanthakumar was seen in the video requesting one more minute to finish speaking and trying to suggest a waiver of the Goods and Services Tax, while Birla asked Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy to take over, telling the Congress MP with a smile: “Mic bandh (off).”

After his death, a video of the exchange was widely shared on Twitter, triggering severe backlash, since many of the measures that Vasanthakumar suggested were later announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government months later as part of the ₹20 lakh crore economic stimulus package.

The 70-year-old MP had been admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai on August 10 after testing positive for COVID. He later contracted severe pneumonia, which led to his demise.

Related news: The story of Vasanthakumar: A driven, resourceful, self-made entrepreneur

He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

A first-time MP from Tamil Nadu, H Vasanthakumar had also been elected MLA twice in the past from the Nanguneri assembly constituency and was the working president of the state Congress committee.

He also established Vasanth & Co, a chain of consumer electronics and home appliances stores and Vasanth TV, an entertainment satellite channel.

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