As President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday signed into law the Bill creating the separate state of Telangana, the government decided to move an ordinance in the last meeting of the Union Cabinet on Sunday to insert special category status for Seemandhra within the new law itself.
This, sources said, is a departure from convention as grant of special category status is always an executive order, not one which requires the law to be amended. But pushed by the Congress to placate Seemandhra, the government has taken a political call to insert this in law so that it can only be withdrawn by an amendment.
Similar status was given to Uttarakhand when it was created under the Vajpayee government though an executive decision by the Union Cabinet. But with the BJP making political gains by stalling passage of the Bill in Rajya Sabha unless the government announced a special package — the Prime Minister eventually did — the Congress was keen to show it could go a step further.
The Telangana ordinance will also marginally change the boundaries of the new state as a set of villages in Khammam district, affected by the Polavaram hydel project, will be moved to Seemandhra for smooth facilitation of resettlement and rehabilitation since the project itself is in Seemandhra.
Besides this, the Cabinet will take up the anti-graft Bills being pushed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi through the ordinance route. These include the Prevention of Corruption (amendment) Bill and Right of Citizens for Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services.
It is learnt that President Mukherjee had certain doubts over signing a clutch of ordinances in such a manner just before the elections. The government looked into the matter and found certain precedents based on which Minister for Personnel V Narayanasamy met the President. But Mukherjee, it is learnt, made it known that the ordinance route should be taken only for the Bills the government considers absolutely critical.
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All ordinances were deferred at the last Cabinet meeting on Friday since the government was examining these issues carefully. The matter was further discussed by the Congress core group which made the political call to press ahead with the ordinance route despite certain caveats related to parliamentary principle given that the announcement of elections is imminent. Given the President’s stand, the Congress core group may meet again before the Cabinet sits for the Sunday special.