By getting a resolution rejecting the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill for creating Telangana passed by the State Assembly just before the deadline set by President Pranab Mukherjee to consider the Bill ended on Thursday, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy did what little he could to protect what he saw as his political constituency: those standing for a united Andhra Pradesh in the Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra regions. Neither the delay nor the ultimate rejection of the Telangana Bill by the Assembly will have any bearing on the creation of the new State if the Centre stands firm on its decision on Telangana. The Chief Minister, in raising legal and technical objections to the Bill, might have managed to convey the opposition of large sections of the people in Seemandhra to the division of Andhra Pradesh, but the manner in which the proceedings of the House were conducted from the day the Bill was introduced till the day it was rejected reflects badly on his government and the democratic traditions of the legislature. Speaker Nadendla Manohar, who too is politically opposed to Telangana, put the Chief Minister’s contentious resolution to a voice vote amid noisy scenes, and declared the motion carried in a matter of two minutes. It was obvious from the regional representation in the House that those opposed to the Bill constituted a majority. The Bill presented a chance to address the concerns raised by the proposal to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. Instead, the time was used for political posturing and the reiteration of known positions by both sides. Pro-Telangana members, on their part, did not press for a division amid the din, perhaps because they did not want to expose their lack of numbers. The voice vote was, in effect, the only mode of expression of the views of the legislature.
Now that the onus is on the Centre to shepherd the Bill through Parliament, the Congress must eschew any temptation to use this issue as part of any electoral strategy before the Lok Sabha polls. With the national leadership of the party backing the creation of Telangana, and the State unit divided on geographical lines, making this a campaign issue is anyway fraught with risks. No political consensus on the Bill is possible at this late stage, but the Centre can bring in amendments to the Bill to incorporate the concerns of other parties and representatives of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra. As the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party is necessary in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress will have to keep the Bill open for amendments. The State legislature was robbed of a free, reasoned debate on the issue, but hopefully Parliament will consider all aspects of the Bill before bringing Telangana into being.