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Why BJP is very upset with Sushma Swaraj

February 19, 2014 20:11 IST

BJP sources said their party has consistently maintained that while it is committed to the formation of a separate state of Telangana, it also wanted the concerns of the Seema-Andhra region to be adequately addressed. Oddly enough, Sushma Swaraj did not press this issue in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Anita Katyal reports.

There is growing anger in the Bharatiya Janata Party against its Lok Sabha leader Sushma Swaraj for her failure to draw attention to the concerns of the Seema-Andhra region when she rose to support the Telangana Bill in the Lower House on Tuesday.

The United Progressive Alliance government was able to pass the controversial Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill in the Lower House only after the principal opposition party decided to back the legislation.

The BJP, however, had second thoughts on Wednesday and insisted on moving amendments to the bill when it realised that Swaraj’s oversight had put its alliance with the Telugu Desam Party in jeopardy and sent out a message that it had colluded with the Congress in passing the bill in the midst of chaos. It now wants to make amends by putting its imprint on the legislation.

BJP leaders are particularly upset as the Tuesday developments have also hit its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s image in the Seema-Andhra region where his effigies were burnt during the bandh called by the anti-Telangana parties on Wednesday.

“Sushma Swaraj has effectively spoilt Modi’s party in Andhra Pradesh,” remarked a senior BJP leader. A section in the party was quick to point fingers at Swaraj for deliberately queering the pitch for Modi.

BJP sources said their party has consistently maintained that while it is committed to the formation of a separate state of Telangana, it also wanted the concerns of the Seema-Andhra region to be adequately addressed. Oddly enough, Sushma Swaraj did not press this issue in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The BJP resorted to this balancing act as it could not be seen to be going back on its decades-old commitment to the formation of Telangana. At the same time, it did not want to turn its back on Seema-Andhra as it was hoping to make political gains in this region in partnership with the TDP.

Consequently, the BJP belatedly picked holes in the Telangana Bill passed by the Lok Sabha and insisted on moving amendments to the legislation in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath had extensive discussions with BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu but the talks proved inconclusive. As a result, the Telangana bill could not be taken up for discussion on Wednesday though it was listed on the agenda.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh was sitting with BJP leaders till late on Wednesday evening to sort their differences so that the bill can be passed in the Upper House on Thursday.

The ruling alliance is not agreeable to the BJP’s amendments as the bill will then have to go back to the Lok Sabha for ratification. The government’s parliamentary managers believe this will prove to be an uphill task given the pandemonium they encountered during the passage of the bill.

BJP’s Rajya Sabha leader Arun Jaitely, who led the discussions, pointed to the lacunae in the bill and asked for several amendments which include a substantial compensation package for the Seema-Andhra region and a change in the powers of the common governor of the two states which will have a common capital in Hyderabad for ten years. This will necessarily require a constitutional amendment in the bill which will have to be approved by a two thirds majority, an impossible task given the mood of the members.

“This is another instance of BJP’s doublespeak…Why are these concerns being raised now? Its leaders never moved any amendments in the Lok Sabha and nor did they seek a package for Seema-Andhra when the Finance Bill was discussed,” Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath told Rediff.com

BJP leader Prakash Javadekar , however, insisted that they had discussed their list of amendments with the government before the debate in the Lok Sabha and had agreed to back the bill only when their leaders were assured that their suggestions would be incorporated. “But when we read the bill we realised that our amendments had not been included,” he explained.

Hectic efforts are on to end the stalemate as there are only two more days to go before the curtain comes down on the last session of Parliament after which all political parties will hit the campaign trail for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Faced with strong anti-incumbency, the Congress naturally wants to go out on a victorious note by showcasing statehood for Telangana as one its major achievements. The BJP obviously does not want the Congress to grab all the credit and would like to share the limelight.

Image: Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj

Photograph: Reuters

Anita Katyal in New Delhi