The government has deferred the plan to introduce the Telangana statehood Bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, sources said on Wednesday. They indicated that the Bill was in fact unlikely to be tabled this week — which means there will be very little time for the legislation to go through, given the constitutional requirement to pass the vote on account. Parliament is in session until February 21.
This indication came after top BJP leaders L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday afternoon. Senior ministers A K Antony, Sushil Kumar Shinde, P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath were also present.
“Parliament session has not been fruitful so far. We should pass some legislation. I seek your cooperation,” the PM was learnt to have appealed to the BJP leaders. They, however, told him that the BJP was not disrupting the House, and it was for the ruling party to get its act together in order to transact some business.
The BJP leaders were learnt to have underlined their longstanding commitment towards statehood for Telangana, but asked the PM to ensure justice for Seemandhra as well. They suggested that the government should sweeten the bifurcation with a handsome compensation package for the Seemandhra region.
Lok Sabha was on Wednesday witness to the unprecedented spectacle of four union ministers protesting in the well against the proposed bifurcation, driving the Prime Minister to say that his heart bled to see Parliament being disrupted.
HRD Minister Pallam Raju, who is opposed to the creation of Telangana but who did not join his colleagues in the well, responded defiantly, saying that the PM was being “unfair”.
“My heart bleeds to see what is happening in the House,” Manmohan Singh said of the protests that resulted in Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge failing to complete his rail budget speech. “It is sad for democracy that such things are happening even after all appeals for calm.”
The action of Ministers K S Rao, D Purandeswari, K Suryaprakash Reddy and Chiranjeevi — all from Seemandhra — led to Kharge simply laying his speech on the table. Reacting to the PM’s criticism, Raju said, “I do not think the comment is fair just to isolate what is happening today. It has been happening in the House. Certainly, I think there has been a failing somewhere.”
Raju said the ministers were expected to put up a “final battle” against the “absolute injustice” of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath too condemned the incidents in Lok Sabha. “It is very unfortunate… the obstruction and creating disturbances and all kinds of unruly scenes… This is a very bad precedent,” he said.
A senior BJP leader who was aware of the deliberations between the BJP brass and the PM and his ministers, said, “Government thinks that it has done justice (to Seemandhra), but the fact that people are not happy indicates that justice has not been done. We will raise their genuine grievance for justice. We will maintain our pro-Telangana stance, but also voice the concerns of Seemandhra.
“There should be specific announcements like creation of four cities in Seemandhra, announcement of capital in one region and high court in the other region, and financial incentives to compensate for losses to Seemandhra,” the leader said.
The BJP’s new-found interest in ensuring “justice” for Seemandhra would appear to dilute its hitherto unequivocal support for Telangana. Party sources said this was dictated in part by the feeling in a section of the larger Parivar that Muslims may be more influential in the new state.
Making things more difficult for the government, the Samajwadi Party on Wednesday said it would back the anti-Telangana protesters in case they were suspended from the House. “SP is against creation of smaller states, and consequently we are also opposed to bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. If need be, SP members will not hesitate to enter the well to protest,” SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav told The Indian Express on Wednesday. Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, a UPA partner, has already said that Andhra Pradesh should not be divided.
Sources said that at his meeting with BJP leaders, the PM also asked for cooperation in passing anti-corruption legislation. The BJP leaders were learnt to have replied that the PM should first get the House in order so that the laws can be discussed.