Fate of Telangana Bill hinges on Prime Minister’s meet with BJP leaders today

After days of negotiations with the BJP that had made an orderly House a condition for its support to the Telangana Bill, the Congress leadership on Tuesday finally acted to expel six of its Lok Sabha MPs from the Seemandhra region who had given notice for a no-confidence motion against the government, opposing the division of Andhra Pradesh.

The MPs expelled by Congress president Sonia Gandhi are Sabbam Hari, G.V. Harsha Kumar, V. Arun Kumar, L. Rajagopal, R. Sambasiva Rao and A. Sai Pratap.

Congress general secretary Ajay Maken said the move was another step toward the creation of Telangana, to which the party was committed.

But UPA managers still face the uphill task of keeping order in both Houses, paralysed since last Wednesday over Telangana. There are 25 Lok Sabha MPs from the Seemandhra region —18 from Congress (including the six expelled members), three from YSR Congress and four from TDP.

A clearer picture on the Bill’s fate may emerge after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dinner meeting on Wednesday with top BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

BJP demand

The BJP wants the Bill to include provisions to address Seemandhra concerns, and the UPA needs the main Opposition party’s support to pass it.

In a statement, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun criticised the UPA for not taking sufficient steps to reconcile the creation of Telangana with Seemandhra.

Effectively just six days were left of the current session, he said, but the Telangana Bill had not even been introduced.

Declaring “a lurking suspicion that the UPA is prolonging the issue,” he wondered if its intention was to render the issue infructuous in the present session. Congress hopes that the expulsions would sober down Telangana opponents in the party including Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy appeared premature.

Ananta Venkatrami Reddy, among the 12 remaining Congress MPs from Seemandhra, told journalists, “We will see that the bill is defeated.”

Defiant

The expelled MPs too remained defiant. “Expulsion is not going to demoralise us. We are now emboldened to take our fight inside the House,” said Mr. Rajagopal.

Congress sources told The Hindu they did not expect the leadership to act against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.