Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: Amidst opposition by the Left Parties and the AIADMK, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill proposing to create a 78-member Legislative Council for Tamil Nadu, 24 years after it was abolished.

Not part of the original schedule of business, the Bill was introduced in the afternoon and brought up for discussion and passing later in the evening even as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony waited in vain to make their statements. Three listed Bills too had to make way for the Bill to provide for the creation of a Legislative Council for Tamil Nadu.

In fact, so keen was the government to get the Bill passed that the day saw the list of business being issued four times. The “List of Business'' and the “Revised List of Business'' did not mention the Bill. A supplementary issued later in the day mentioned the government's intention to simply introduce the Bill. This was followed by a supplementary to the supplementary which stated that the Bill would also be moved and passed. The Union Cabinet had cleared the proposal barely 24 hours earlier.

‘Holistic discussion'

Replying to the 90-minute discussion which mostly saw Members from Tamil Nadu taking part, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily conceded the need for a holistic discussion on the issue but felt the House should approve this particular Bill as it had been approved by a State legislature.

Opening the discussion and supporting the Bill, Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) favoured an all-party discussion on the issue in view of the fact that the fate of the Legislative Councils in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh has been subject to the whims of the parties ruling the two States.

“There is no rationale, no principle. It should not be left to the likes and dislikes of the ruling party. Is it a casual matter?'' he wanted to know while calling for deliberations on Article 168 of the Constitution which provides for the setting up of bicameral legislatures in states.

While Congress and DMK Members wanted the Bill to be passed, it was left to the Left Parties and the AIADMK to mount an opposition.

T.K. Rangarajan (CPI-M) wondered at the urgency behind getting the Bill passed and felt this was being done only to suit “a United Progressive Alliance partner.'' With Tamil Nadu scheduled to go to polls next year, Mr. Rangarajan felt it would have been prudent to wait for the people's verdict.

V Maitreyan (AIADMK) pointed out that the government had “bulldozed'' all other items listed earlier in the day which showed its helplessness. “Instead of pleasing your ally, you should have tried to please 50 crore women by getting the Women's Reservation Bill passed,'' he added.

D. Raja (CPI) said his party was not in favour of again creating a Legislative Council in Tamil Nadu. He also felt the government had adopted a wrong precedent to get the Bill passed. He agreed with Mr. Naidu on the need to address the larger issue of having Upper Houses in States.