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Telangana: Costly victory for Congress, BJP stumped

By Sheela Bhatt
Last updated on: February 19, 2014 09:03 IST
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Sheela Bhatt lists ten quick takeaways from the passage of the Telangana bill in the Lok Sabha.

1. The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014 was one of the most undemocratically passed bills in the history of Indian democracy.

2. It was passed only after Speaker Meira Kumar agreed to Congress's game-plan of passing the bill amidst utter chaos.

3. The bill saw the climax of MP’s ensuring the physical security in the house. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were protected by MPs like Ashok Tanwar of Haryana and J M Aroon Rashid from Theni, Tamil Nadu, till the bill was passed.

4. Since it was shameful moment for India and a blot on the conduct of the Lok Sabha, the Speaker ensured the process of creation of India’s 29th state was not seen live on television screens.

5. When the various amendments were carried forward, L K Advani displayed his dissent, clearly. He didn't stand up for the head count.

6. Sonia Gandhi was looking tense but was quite active and directing her party's MPs. It was her ‘nuclear-deal’ type moment. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had risked his government to get nod of Parliament for the Indo-US nuclear deal. Sonia Gandhi stood firm even after facing a vertical divide in her party and even amongst her own core team members. As events took their own momentum, Sonia Gandhi went for the kill. Her immediate concern was to see that the ‘BJP's bluff was called’ and ‘Jagan Reddy's wings are clipped forever’. Reddy will have his influence only over 25 Lok Sabha seats and not 42 as his father YSR Reddy, who ironically was a trusted Sonia man. 

7. Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury has said that there was match-fixing between Congress and the BJP. Otherwise how come BJP's PM candidate was talking about independent Telangana today in Karnataka, he asked. This is partially true. Both sides played a game of posturing. It was deception of the highest order. But at one point the BJP was caught unawares when in spite of risk of violence inside the Lok Sabha and outside in the streets of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress took up the bill. The BJP was not given any option but to give straight answer -- are you for Telangana or not?

That happened today and Sushma Swaraj looked dwarfed by the game played by Congress. It was Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen who moved amendments and rose to talk about people of Andhra Pradesh. He moved amendments that made sense. But, the BJP was looking dumb. Some of the BJP’s amendments were incorporated in the final draft of the bill but not all.

8. In its defence now the BJP is saying, off the record, that Narendra Modi, Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh were very clear that the BJP cannot back out of the promise of backing Telangana. They decided to take the line that ‘Justice for Seema-Andhra and the creation of Telangana.” It’s such sorry state of affairs for the BJP that after fiasco in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley will now be requested to forcefully talk about crucial issue of ‘revenue package’ and ‘law and order’ issue of Hyderabad in the Rajya Sabha to pacify the Seema-Andhra people. But, the BJP will not dare to play any game now. It’s too late. They will have to support the bill in the Rajya Sabha but may be Jaitley can give a spirited speech and say that when the next government comes we will give ‘justice to Seema-Andhra’.  

9. All along the Congress alleged that the BJP was a divided house and the BJP alleged that the Congress is a divided house. Both tried gaining in both regions by doing everything wrong and undemocratic. But on Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi took the political call and sat in Parliament throughout the proceedings. But the tragic element of the scene inside Parliament for everybody to see was that Sonia Gandhi was sitting in front of the political wreckage of her party's ten-year rule.

It was a Pyrrhic victory for her due to complete absence of the statecraft in her party and the government. But nevertheless she created a new chapter in Telugu history. It was India's misfortune that due to politics played with gambler's instincts by our leaders the birth of the new state was not a matter of pure joy as it should have been.

10. There are too many legal, constitutional and administration related lacunas in the bill. So, the last word on it has not yet been spoken. 

Image: Supporters of Telangana celebrate in Hyderabad. Photograph: SnapsIndia

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi