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Telangana protesters disrupt rail budget, PM says ‘heart bleeds’

The storm over Telangana derailed the presentation of the interim Rail Budget.

New Delhi | Updated: February 12, 2014 9:58 pm
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Lok Sabha was on Wednesday witness to the unprecedented spectacle of four union ministers protesting in the well against the proposed bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, driving the Prime Minister to say that his heart bleeds 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 with open defiance, 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.

At a luncheon meeting with the Prime Minister, meanwhile, the BJP brass suggested that the government should sweeten the bifurcation with a handsome compensation package to assuage sentiments in the Semandhra region. The BJP is in favour of creating a Telangana state.

L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley attended the lunch at the PM’s residence, at which  senior ministers A K Antony, Sushil Kumar Shinde, P Chidambaram and Nath too were 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.

“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,” said a senior BJP leader who was aware of the deliberations with the PM and his ministers.

“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 finacial 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 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.

Sources said the PM also requested the BJP leaders to cooperate with the government in passing anti-corruption legislation. The BJP leadership was learnt to have replied that the PM should first get the House in order so that the laws can be discussed.

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