The UPA managers feel the remaining phase of the Winter Session of Parliament, which will be dominated by the Telangana issue, may actually end up as a repeat of previous sessions. Anita Katyal reports.
Despite the Congress leadership’s determined effort to go ahead with the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the United Progressive Alliance government is not confident about the passage of the state reorganisation bill in the resumed winter session of Parliament commencing on Wednesday.
“We have only a feeble chance of getting Telangana Bill passed,” a senior Congress minister told Rediff.com, adding despondently, “At best we may be able to introduce the bill.”
Admitting that the Congress had mishandled the Telangana issue, a Congress Cabinet minister said it is not possible to change the boundaries of a state in a combative atmosphere.
Pointing to the creation of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, he agreed with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s contention that the exercise had proved to be a smooth affair in sharp contrast to the way the Congress was going ahead with the Telangana bill.
The ruling alliance’s parliamentary managers have a tough task on hand as they have to deal with the opponents of the Telangana bill within the Congress, and also to enlist the support of BJP as the UPA government does not have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha to push through the contentious legislation.
Since this is the last Parliament session before all parties hit the campaign trail for the upcoming general election, the BJP is not expected to cooperate with the UPA government.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath made a strong pitch for the passage of pending anti-graft bills and the Telangana bill at an all-party meeting convened on Monday ahead of the session.
Although the BJP has always supported the formation of Telangana, it has lately been hedging its bets by adding riders like “we need justice for the Seemandhra region” because it does not want the Congress to get any political mileage from the move.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had referred to this aspect in a recent blog: “The proposal for creation of a separate state of Telangana will now come up before the Parliament. The Bharatiya Janata Party has consistently supported the proposal to create a state of Telangana but at the same time, we believe that justice should be done to the region of Seemandhra,” he wrote.
The BJP is principally in favour of Telangana. However, it has put the onus on the UPA government to push through the bill and ensure there is no disruption in Parliament.
Speaking at the all-party meeting on Monday, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the BJP would help the government in passing the bills, but she also wanted to know if the Congress party’s own members will allow Parliament to function.
“The last two sessions were sacrificed to chaos over Telangana. If the government can assure us that the House will function peacefully, we have no problem in passing the anti-corruption and other bills," Sushma Swaraj said after the meeting.
At the same time, the BJP leaders also told the government that their party would not support the suspension of members who disrupt proceedings.
Since the BJP cannot openly oppose the formation of Telangana, its leaders are learnt to have asked the Telugu Desam Party MPs to derail proceedings in Parliament to ensure that the Andhra Pradesh state reorganisation bill cannot be passed.
“Not only has the BJP asked the TDP to raise noisy protests against the Telangana bill in the two Houses, it has also told them that they will make sure that no action is taken against them,” a UPA minister told Rediff.com.
Hitting out at the opposition after the all-party meeting, Kamal Nath said, “We cannot have a situation where political parties adopt double standards. They take one position outside Parliament and then support parties which are disrupting proceedings,” he said, adding that it clearly shows which side they are on.
Continuing in the same vein, he said, the main motive of the opposition is not to oppose a bill but to disrupt Parliament. “We requested the opposition to rise above political compulsions. Instead of supporting disruptions in the House, the opposition should take a position by their vote and in the debate. They can vote out the Telangana bill if they feel the people do not want it,” Kamal Nath underlined.
Besides persuading the opposition, the UPA government also has to contend with the rumblings within the Congress as its MPs from the Seemandhra region, opposing the division of Andhra Pradesh, have threatened to move a no-confidence motion against their own government. While efforts are on to placate the Seemandhra MPs, the ruling alliance is learnt to have told the protesting members that it would have no choice but to dissolve Parliament if they did not relent.
“In any case, the Lok Sabha elections are due in April… this is also the last Parliament session. If the situation warrants, the government will dissolve Parliament,” a senior UPA minister told Rediff.com.
At the same time, he also suggested that the proposed no-confidence motion would not stand legal scrutiny as it is the last session of this government.
Despite the UPA government’s best efforts to buy peace with the opposition and mollify angry Congress members, its last session promises to go the way of the previous sessions. With the general elections round the corner, all parties will up the ante and use this opportunity to position themselves for the crucial electoral battle ahead.
The Telangana issue is set to dominate the proceedings. After the Telangana bill was rejected by the Andhra Pradesh assembly last week, the battleground has now shifted to Delhi as those opposing and supporting the contentious bill have reached the national capital to plead their case.
While Telangana Rashtriya Samiti chief K.Chandrashekhar Rao has met Rashriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and BJP president Rajnath Singh to elicit their support in the passage of the bill, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy plans to sit on dharna from Tuesday to protest the division of the state.
Image: A supporter of Telangana clashes with the police outside Hyderabad’s Osmania University