Free Press Journal

Lok Sabha passes bill to divide Andhra amid bedlam


New Delhi: Amid pandemonium and a television blackout of the proceedings, the Lok Sabha Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to carve out a Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh.

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill was passed by voice vote in the face of noisy protests by Andhra Pradesh MPs opposed to Telangana as well as a section of the opposition parties.

The passage of the bill, moved by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, took a total of 90 minutes.

Critics, including Congress minister D. Purandeswari and Communist Party of India-Marxist members, massed near Speaker Meira Kumar, some shouting slogans and others holding placards against Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation.

But they and others opposed to the state’s division were simply ignored as amendments to the bills were taken up and then the bill was finally declared passed by the lower house.

Some members including those from DMK and Janata Dal-United were seen walking out from the house when the bill was passed.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi watched the proceedings with visible dismay. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not present.

So high were the tempers in the house that a group of Congress members from Andhra Pradesh stood near Shinde as he read out the bill in a bid to protect him from anti-Telangana MPs.

The bill was introduced in the house on Feb 13 amid unprecedented scenes marked by fisticuffs, a member using pepper spray and vandalism. A total of 16 MPs, including from the Congress, belonging to Seemandhra region were suspended till Feb 20.

Participating in the debate, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said her BJP supported the creation of Telangana but not the way it was being done.

“I and my party support the bill…Telangana should be formed…We rise to prove our credibility and to see wishes of youth of Telangana are fulfilled,” she said.

Accusing Congress of mishandling the issue, she noted the BJP-led NDA had created three states during its tenure without any disruption in parliament or in any region.

She accused the Congress of delaying the process of Telangana formation, promised way back in May 2004 but brought “at the fag end of the 15th Lok Sabha”.

Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, who spoke in support of Telangana, said the demand for separate Telangana was raised for last 60 years.

“I don’t think any demand has been raised for such a long period with such an intense feeling,” he said, expressing “surprise and pain” over the scenes of disorder in the house at this “extremely joyous occasion”.

The bill will now go to Rajya Sabha for approval.

The passage of the bill and the manner in which it was done came under severe criticism from various parties.

A fuming Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, leader of the YSR Congress which is bitterly against the creation of Telangana, dubbed it “a black day” for the country and called a general strike in Andhra Pradesh Wednesday.

“The bill was passed in parliament against the will of the (Andhra) assembly, against the will of the people of Andhra Pradesh,” Reddy told the media.

The Andhra MPs were not the only ones to express disgust.

As it became clear that the Congress was determined to push through the bill, Samajwadi Party’s leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said “this is not the way for democracy to function”.

TDP’s Rajya Sabha member Y.S. Chowdhary denounced Speaker Meira Kumar for the “daylight murder of democracy”.

Trinamool Congress’ Dinesh Trivedi, who walked out in protest, said the spirit of democracy “has been totally killed”.