After the Group of Ministers has concluded most of its meeting, all attention is focussed on developments on November 18, a day that could decide whether the process of bifurcation will continue to proceed at the existing speed. The GoM has lined up back to back meetings with Union Ministers from Telangana and Seemandhra separately and with Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy next Monday.
On this day, the Centre will face its litmus test as the Supreme Court will hear a petition filed by Telugu Desam Party MLA P. Keshav challenging the bifurcation. TDP as well as other Seemandhra leaders are heavily banking on the Supreme Court to give some crucial direction that could upset the timelines the Centre has fixed for bifurcation, particularly the passage of the Telangana Bill during the winter session of Parliament.
The Chief Minister’s meeting with the GoM is equally significant because his strong pitch against bifurcation may force the high command to re-draw its strategies, though not its decision. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Reddy articulates his argument, considering the GoM has been constituted to solicit suggestions on the process of bifurcation and not against it.
Considering his diatribe against the division during the Rachabanda programme on Friday, it is likely that he will continue in the same aggressive vein. Senior party leaders fear that Mr. Reddy may embarrass the party by quitting during the special Assembly session.
Aware of the likely political crisis his resignation may trigger, the high command has drawn up Plan B that includes anointing an amenable leader as the Chief Minister. The party tried and failed to convince Union Minister Kotla Suryaprakash Reddy to take over, if Mr. Kiran Reddy quit.
A story did the rounds that Agriculture Minister Kanna Lakshminarayana was being considered for an important assignment but he vehemently denied any such move.
Now, the spotlight is also when President Pranab Mukherjee will send the draft Bill to the Assembly for seeking its opinion.
According to the tentative timetable, the GoM will finish consultations on November 18 and finalise the draft bill by November 20. Once that is done, the Cabinet would approve it and send it to President. As the A. P. Assembly has not been prorogued, it should not be a problem for the Speaker to convene a special session. If the high command fails to get the desired response from the Chief Minister, it may take the Speaker into confidence.