Will Telangana emerge before general elections? (Andhra Newsletter)
Will a separate Telangana state be a reality before the general elections that are expected in April-May? This is the question in everybody's mind and no one seems to have an answer.
Even three weeks after President Pranab Mukherjee referred the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2013 to the state assembly for its views under Article 3 of the constitution, things have not moved a bit.
Uncertainty continues over the fate of the bill as the assembly resumed its winter session Friday to debate it even as the opposition YSR Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) legislators from Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) are determined to stall it. However, no business could be transacted as legislators from Seemandhra stalled the proceedings.
The session will conclude on Jan 23, the date prescribed by the President for the assembly to send back the bill with its views.
The second phase of the winter session is likely to see more fireworks as Seemandhra legislators want the assembly to first pass a resolution urging the central government to keep the state united. Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who is opposing the bifurcation, and ministers from Seemandhra also want voting on the bill while legislators from Telangana are opposing this on the ground that the constitution has no such provision.
The hurdles the bill is facing in the assembly, which stands vertically divided along regional lines, and the limited time available for parliament to pass the bill have raised serious doubts on whether India's 29th state will be a reality before the general elections.
MPs and state legislators from Seemandhra are hopeful that the polls will be held in undivided state, while their counterparts from Telangana are confident that the long cherished dream of people of the region will be fulfilled before the elections.
Senior Congress leader from Telangana and Union Minister S. Jaipal Reddy is confident that parliament will pass the bill in the first week of February. "At the stroke of midnight on Jan 23, the bill will be out of the hands of the state assembly and will reach parliament, which will pass the same in the first week of February," he said.
A parliament session to pass a vote-on-account is likely next month. Six Congress MPs from Seemandhra, who had moved a no-confidence motion against their own party-led government in the Lok Sabha last month, plan to press the motion again and stall the house when it takes up the Telangana bill.
They are busy working out their strategy to somehow stop bifurcation of the state till February-end or early March, when the poll process is likely to commence. They hope that the state will remain united even after the elections as the YSR Congress and TDP will sweep the elections in Seemandhra.
Some say that even if Telangana state doesn't become a reality before the elections, the Congress will try to convince the people of Telangana of its commitment by introducing the bill in parliament. Former MP Mallu Ravi, however, disagrees. "People want Telangana state and not Telangana bill in parliament," the Congress leader from Telangana told IANS.
He believes the Congress will do everything to ensure the formation of Telangana state before the elections as its failure to do so will see the party losing in both the regions.
Former state minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir also felt that passing the bill in parliament will not be a tough task as both the ruling UPA and the principal opposition BJP will be supporting it. "The bill requires a simple majority and mobilizing this number will not at all be difficult as the BJP and several other parties have already declared their support to the formation of Telangana," Shabbir told IANS.
Notwithstanding the confidence of the Telangana leaders, the bill faces the risk of running into legal and constitutional hurdles. Those opposing it point out that provisions like continuing article 371 (D) in both the states requires a constitution amendment. They also claim that the bill has several lacunae.
Of late, the BJP has also dropped hints that its support to the bill is not without riders. Facing opposition from its own leaders in Seemandhra, the BJP leadership is now saying that the government can't move ahead on the issue without addressing the concerns of the Seemandhra people.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 04-01-2014)