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Rediff.com  » News » How the Congress and BJP played a dangerous game on Telangana

How the Congress and BJP played a dangerous game on Telangana

Last updated on: February 21, 2014 15:53 IST

'In the Lok Sabha, the Congress had an upper hand as the BJP co-operated with them, and in the Rajya Sabha the BJP’s Venkaiya Naidu was able to draw the attention of the Seema-Andhra voters by arrangement with the Congress that kept silent and heard him out.

'Yechury rightly said that it was a case of match-fixing. What was shocking was that important amendments were rejected or incorporated shabbily. The issues which are a matter of life and death for Telangana and Seema-Andhra were handled by these elders in a casual, irresponsible and insensitive manner.'

As the Rajya Sabha passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2014 on Thursday, giving birth to India’s 29th state, Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt takes final stock of how it was accomplished.

India has finally gotten its 29th state, but only after Indian democracy took heavy body blows. The credit for creating Telangana should go neither to Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor to the Bharatiya Janata Party, but to the provision in the Constitution and the system of giving importance to the “voice of majority” that runs the Indian parliamentary system.

A dangerous trend has been set, and one can only pray that in future some government will not bulldoze its way just because, technically speaking, they had a majority. The Congress took shelter under the argument that a majority of members were in agreement with the move, and so they went in for the kill disregarding the etiquette of conducting Parliament.

It could lead to a situation in the future, where a government with a majority bulldozes its way through even while a section is vociferously against it, and even as someone questions its constitutional validity.

On Thursday, the BJP's Arun Jaitley said , “Law and order and policing are state subjects under Entries 1 and 2 of List II of the Seventh Schedule (of the Constitution). Clause 8 of the Bill proposes that the law and order of Hyderabad city, which will be common capital of two states, shall vest in the governor.

“The governor, who is an appointee of the central government, will be aided by two advisors (appointed by the central government) who shall advise him in the law and order functions of the state. This is an alternative method of governance,”  he said.

“The BJP is willing to accept this method until such time that Hyderabad remains the common capital of the two states,” Jaitley said, looking at Law Minister Kapil Sibal.

However, can this alternative method of governance, which violates Article 163 of the Constitution and also the Seventh Schedule thereto, be ushered in by an ordinary legislation and not by a constitutional amendment?

The BJP is willing to support the constitutional amendment to this end.  The BJP wants that the Bill to create Telangana with Hyderabad as the common capital initially, should be legally and constitutionally sustainable and not a suspect decision.

The Congress coolly rejected the proposal that would make the governor of Hyderabad, for 10 years, almost the quintessential ‘Raja Sahib’.

It’s clear that the BJP believed it was a constitutionally not tenable Bill; but neither did they walk out, nor did they protest stoutly. This was just because they didn’t want the Congress alone to get the credit for fighting for Telangana, and that they were afraid of discredit coming their way from the Congress for creating obstacles.    

Since the last one week, ethics and codes of conduct were dumped so that a political purpose could be served. A no holds barred approach is scary and one shudders to think what all can be achieved in Parliament if some bully government with rowdy members of Parliament on its side can bring about the change that the larger India is not ready for.

Anything is possible inside Parliament -- this is the message from February 18 and 20. Telangana had to happen, one day. But, the process has mutilated democracy.

A strong message has gone from Parliament that only majority matters and minority voices have no place here. They can shout; they can spray pepper and they can keep standing for hours to oppose, like Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury did, without any effect on the House.

The legally correct position of the Congress and the BJP is ethically not tenable. Both parties have conspired to enjoy the power of the majority. 

Sonia has shown her iron nerve. In the first round, her party managers strung the BJP along and brought them to the Lok Sabha to be able to pass the Bill. It was pre-fixed and co-scripted theatre written with a lust for votes, on both sides of the divide.

Although the Congress and BJP had made a public commitment for Telangana, no one was ready to part with the credit attached in awarding a new state.

Also, technically, two new entities have sprung up. The new act is called ‘Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation’ but its bifurcation is leading to two new political entities because even Seema-Andhra will never be the same again, and the Andhra Pradesh that existed until now will be no more.

This situation led to complications where the Congress and BJP didn’t want to lose votes in either of the states. So how do they pass the Bill and still remain relevant in Seema-Andhra?

The Congress and BJP managers connived to write the script: Both sent political signals to Telangana in the Lok Sabha, reminding the people that they were honouring the promise. Then, both marched to the Rajya Sabha and expressed concerns over Seema-Andhra. Both sides had serious issues which were not addressed.

In the Lok Sabha, the Congress had an upper hand as the BJP co-operated with them, and in the Rajya Sabha the BJP’s Venkaiya Naidu was able to draw the attention of the Seema-Andhra voters by arrangement with the Congress that kept silent and heard him out.

Yechury rightly said that it was a case of match-fixing. What was shocking was that important amendments were rejected or incorporated shabbily. The issues which are a matter of life and death for Telangana and Seema-Andhra were handled by these elders in a casual, irresponsible and insensitive manner.

As it happened in the Lok Sabha, where Sonia and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde were given ‘physical cover’, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Shinde were provided ‘protection’ by MPs turned bouncers -- Pramod Tiwari from Pratapgarh and Narendra Bhudania from Rajasthan -- in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

It was only after this that the two gentlemen (the PM and the Shinde) could speak. They even kept the papers of their speeches under the table due to the possibility that they might get torn apart by the protestors.

How acutely embarrassing for the people of India! But that emotion was not much visible in the Rajya Sabha. Mysteriously, Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Hamid Ansari was absent, and Deputy Chairman P J Kurien conducted the house.

It was quite symbolic that Dr Singh chose to ‘see’ the proceedings but didn’t ‘hear’ them using headphones.

Now that Telangana is born, it will trigger the demand for Harit Pradesh, Awadh, Purvanchal out of UP and may be Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Gorkhaland in West Bengal. The government will have to announce a new States reorganisation Commission.

The sooner the better!

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi