Telangana bill back in the centre's court (Andhra Newsletter)
With the Andhra Pradesh legislature sending back the bill on creating a separate Telangana to the president, along with the resolutions rejecting it, the ball is back in the central government's court.
After nearly seven weeks, both houses of the legislature sent back the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2013 not only with their views but also with two official resolutions adopted by a voice vote rejecting the bill.
While Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who had moved the resolution in the assembly, and other legislators from Seemandhra claiming that the bill was unanimously rejected in both the houses, Telangana legislators and also central leaders of the Congress party are saying that the resolutions would in no way impact the formation of separate state.
All eyes will now be on President Pranab Mukherjee, who is expected to go through the views of the legislators before taking a call on forwarding the bill to parliament.
The resolutions, passed amid protests by Telangana legislators, triggered a debate on whether the president would take them into consideration while taking a decision on referring the bill to parliament.
While the speaker announced that the views expressed by the members - both oral and written - and the amendments and suggestions moved by them would form part of the official records to be sent to the president, he was not clear that the resolutions would also be a part of the record.
Political observers say as the president had referred the bill under Section 3 of the constitution seeking the opinion of the legislature, the centre may ignore the resolutions even if they are sent as part of the official record.
Kiran Reddy, who led Seemandhra legislators in opposing the bill, may have succeeded in getting his resolutions passed but this may not be enough to stall the bifurcation.
Kiran Reddy, who went all out to defy the Congress leadership, wants the "will of the people" for a united Andhra Pradesh to be respected. "No state in the country was bifurcated without a resolution being passed by the concerned state assembly. Now that assembly and council have unanimously passed resolutions opposing the bifurcation, the centre should respect the will of the people," he said.
On the other hand, Telangana protagonists are confident that the bill will be tabled and passed in the parliament during the session beginning Feb 5. They termed the resolutions an "exercise in futility".
They believe that completion of the debate on the bill cleared the way for tabling it in parliament.
"There is no doubt that Telangana state will be a reality in 15 days," said Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao, who had revived the movement for a separate state by floating the party in 2000.
Telangana leaders also point out that under Article 3 of the Constitution, the sovereign power of creating new states rest with parliament and hence resolutions passed in a state legislature have no significance.
The statements by Congress party's central leaders and union ministers have brought cheer to the Telangana camp. Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said it was not correct to say that the bill was defeated in the state legislature. He pointed out that the bill was not put to vote. On the resolutions, he said the legislature was asked only to give its views.
However, the million dollar question is whether the bill will clear the last hurdle and whether a separate state will be a reality next month.
Though Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) many-a-time promised to support the bill, the statements of some of its leaders during last couple of weeks created doubts whether it would go with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the issue.
Some BJP leaders are not only demanding that the concerns of the Seemandhra people be addressed but are also questioning the haste with which the government is rushing through the process.
However, it may not be easy for BJP to go back on its commitment. Its own leaders in Telangana point out that their leaders, including Sushma Swaraj, often visited the region and assured the people that the party will support the bill.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 01-02-2014)