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Why Sonia is steaming ahead with Telangana

Last updated on: February 07, 2014 23:29 IST

Why Sonia is steaming ahead with Telangana

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Anita Katyal

The lure of the17 Lok Sabha seats in the new Telangana state is driving Sonia Gandhi and her party to make every effort be made to push it through Parliament at the earliest.

Rediff.com’s Anita Katyal reports from New Delhi.

Despite stiff resistance from her own party members, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is determined to go ahead with the formation of a separate state of Telangana.

Consequently, the United Progressive Alliance government is working overtime to ensure the passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament.

The Union Cabinet held a special meeting on Friday to clear the final draft of the Bill so that it can be tabled in Parliament next week.

While the party’s parliamentary managers have not been optimistic about the passage of the Bill given the strong opposition from its own parliamentarians from the Seemandhra region and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s non-committal attitude, Sonia is learnt to have insisted that every effort be made to push it through.

There is also a view in the government that if necessary it should ignore the protests in Parliament and pass the Bill through a voice vote.

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Anita Katyal

The urgency in the government is understandable since this is the last Parliament session before all political parties hit the campaign trail for the coming Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress is trying to soften the BJP to enlist its support for the passage of the Bill, but it has to first deal with the Bill’s opponents from its own party.

The government has been put to great embarrassment over the past few days as Congress members from the Seemandhra region joined hands with the Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress to disrupt proceedings in both Houses of Parliament to protest the division of Andhra Pradesh.

At the same time, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy sat on a dharna in the Capital to oppose his own party’s decision to go ahead with the formation of Telangana after ensuring the rejection of the Telangana Bill in the state assembly.

Although the Congress leadership is upset with Reddy over his continuing defiance, it has baulked from taking any action against him as such a move would have plunged the state into a fresh political crisis. 

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Anita Katyal

There is a view in the Congress that Reddy should be sacked now and the state be placed under central rule for the next two months as the Andhra Pradesh assembly polls are due to be held along with the general elections.

However, the Centre’s top priority at present is to ensure the passage of the Telangana Bill before the session ends on February 21 so that the Election Commission can notify elections in the two states.

While the government is trying to placate the angry Seemandhra MPs, the BJP is keeping its cards close to the chest.

Having taken a principled stand on the creation of Telangana, it cannot vote against the Bill. At the same time, it would not like the Congress to walk away with the credit for this decision.

It is, therefore, depending on TDP, YSR Congress and Congress MPs, who are opposed to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, to stall proceedings so that the government is unable to push through the Bill. 

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Anita Katyal

And to make things more difficult for the UPA government, the BJP has also made it clear that it would not support any move to suspend protesting MPs. This has only added to the government’s woes.

The Congress believes it will be able to make political gains in Telangana in the coming elections if it is able to deliver on its promise to form a new state. The party is pinning its hopes on the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the proposed state since it has been virtually wiped out in other regions of the state where the YSR Congress and the TDP are the two main contenders in the fray.

With the Congress focussing all its attention on the controversial Telangana Bill, there is a fear that the government’s other legislative agenda may fall by the way side in this last Parliament session.

Besides the vote-on-account, which has been slated for February 17, the ruling alliance is also keen on pushing through the six pending anti-graft Bill which have been flagged by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi personally to showcase the party’s determination to combat corruption.

But no political party is willing to oblige Rahul to push his agenda as they are all getting ready for what promises to be a bitter and acrimonious Lok Sabha election.




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