Denies charge that Congress pressured government to push through the bill

Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was part of the backroom talks with the BJP on passage of the Telangana Bill, on Friday asserted that the government was on a sound legal footing over reservations about the legality of conferring powers related to security of residents of Hyderabad.

The Minister told journalists here on Friday that such fears were misplaced as Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution empowered the Centre to make such provisions, and four Supreme Court judgments had upheld this position for the purpose of reorganisation of States.

Mr. Ramesh argued that there was no merit in the charge that the Congress pressured the government to push through the Bill to reap electoral advantages. In 2004, creation of Telangana was promised in the Congress manifesto in Andhra Pradesh and was included in the National Common Minimum Programme of UPA-I, he said.

Seeking to allay fears that Telangana was being created at the expense of Seemandhra, Mr. Ramesh said there was a lot that united the two States than divided them. “There will be two Telugu-speaking States now and the success of the reorganisation depends on how the governments of the two States interact with each other.” Also, urging politicians to chip in, he added that the “language of Andhra politics has to be one of reconciliation and cooperation, not confrontation.”

With a new academic year round the corner, the Minister said existing admission quotas in educational institutions would continue for 10 years.

Addressing the water concerns of people on the two sides, he said allocations made by the River Water Tribunals with regard to various projects on the Godavari and the Krishna would remain the same, and the Centre would constitute two separate boards for management of the two rivers.

He said a special unit would be created in the Planning Commission to address Seemandhra’s development needs. The Prime Minister’s statement in the Rajya Sabha, he said, was entirely Seemandhra-focused, and deliberately so because he wanted to address the apprehension of the people there.

Seemandhra will also become the 12th State with Special Category Status. The other States in this category are the eight northeastern States, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The bulk of the Central assistance — 90 per cent — to Seemandhra will be in the form of grant, Mr. Ramesh said, adding that this was done on the intervention of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Seemandhra will have this status for five years.

As for the Polavaram project, he said 90 per cent of the bill would be picked up by the Centre as it would be declared a Central project. The Centre would execute the project and be responsible for all clearances, besides rehabilitation and resettlement.