Rajya Sabha approves Telangana bill amid din and chaos

With the Rajya Sabha putting its seal of approval on the Bill for creating Telangana amid bedlam, the birth of the 29th State of the Union is just a presidential signature away.

The historic development was preceded by prolonged “labour pangs” beginning from July 30 last year, the day the Congress Working Committee (CWC) approved a resolution for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

On Wednesday, there was a great deal of anxiety about the fate of the State as the BJP, which had helped the government push through the Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, put a spanner in the works by insisting that without a Constitution amendment it faces the danger of being legally challenged.

But, thanks to hectic backroom negotiations at the highest level of the government and the BJP, it was smooth sailing in the Upper House despite protests from Seemandhra MPs, who parked themselves in the Well of the House throughout the day with banners and placards. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his team of Ministers succeeded in persuading top BJP leaders not to press for a Constitution amendment, which would have complicated the process.

Mr. Singh’s team convinced the BJP brass that the government was on sound legal footing on giving special powers to the Governor over safety and security of the residents of Hyderabad, which will be the joint capital for a maximum of 10 years.

It was the understanding between the government and the BJP which prompted CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and all others who opposed the Bill to describe it as a classic case of “match-fixing.”

At the meeting, it was agreed that the Prime Minister would announce a package to address the concerns of the Seemandhra people as well as those in the backward regions of Telangana.

Intervening in the debate in the Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister announced that for the purposes of Central assistance, special category status would be extended to the successor state of Andhra Pradesh for five years. He said the Centre would take steps to offer tax incentives to promote industrialisation and economic growth in both States.

In addition, a special development package for the backward regions of the successor state of Andhra Pradesh, in particular the districts of Rayalaseema and north-coastal Andhra Pradesh, will be given on the lines of the K-B-K (Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi) Special Plan in Odisha and the Bundelkhand special package in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Speaking about the commitment of his party to creating Telangana, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley expressed dismay over the manner in which the UPA had handled the entire issue.

Initiating the debate, the BJP’s M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are brothers and are Telugu-speaking. Telangana people want Telangana, we are saying yes... We are not dividing the country; we are only dividing a state for speedy development.”

He blamed the Congress for delaying the creation of Telangana and playing “vote bank” and “opportunistic” politics.