The Union Cabinet Friday cleared the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill that proposes to split the state and create Telangana despite the state legislative Assembly rejecting the controversial move and Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy leading the opposition to the proposed division.
The Cabinet also rejected the demand to declare Hyderabad a union territory and stuck to making it the joint capital of the two states and giving special law enforcement powers to the governor for an area spread over 675 sq km.
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The Bill will be tabled for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha next week.
The Bill also proposes that the temple town of Bhadrachalam will remain in Telangana while some villages submerged in the Pollavaram irrigation project would be transferred to residuary Andhra.
The Cabinet made some minor changes in the Bill and the government is likely to move over 30 amendments when it is taken up for consideration.
The Cabinet meeting, it is learnt, witnessed vociferous protests from Andhra ministers, including Pallam Raju and K S Rao, who declared that they would “not be party to this Cabinet decision”.
These ministers were demanding that Hyderabad be declared a UT for 10 years and claimed the proposed security cover was not adequate.
At an all-party meeting earlier this week, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi had argued that the proposal to entrust the governor with law enforcement powers was unconstitutional and if it was not changed, he would move amendments to the Bill when it comes for passage in Parliament.
But official sources contested his claim Friday saying the powers as provided in the Bill do not violate any constitutional provision.
After the Cabinet cleared the Bill, the Congress core group met to discuss the next course of action. All eyes are now on Chief Minister Reddy’s next move. While there was no discussion on replacing Reddy, who has been defiant of the high command on this issue, sources said he could quit on his own after the Bill is passed.
Also, while the centre has the option of imposing President’s Rule in the state to prevent trouble over the decision, sources said no final decision has been taken on this.
They said even though MPs from Seemandhra disrupted proceedings of both houses of Parliament for the third day Friday, the government is determined to push the bill through even if it requires suspension of the protesting MPs.
Given that the BJP is opposed to the idea of passing the Bill in the din or to the suspension of members through any resolution, ruling party strategists are expecting the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman to suspend the MPs, putting aside their reservations against such a move.
The main opposition party is not inclined to play a spoiler in such a situation despite TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu’s hectic lobbying with BJP leaders to prevent the passage of the Bill.
“We have already declared our support for Telangana. If we don’t resolve it now, the same problem is going to haunt the next government also. Why should we inherit this problem?” said a senior BJP leader.
The Cabinet decision triggered muted celebrations at Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) offices in Hyderabad and other parts of the proposed new state.
People participated in impromptu victory processions raising “Jai Telangana” slogans. The TRS, which spearheaded the agitation for the separate state since 2009, however, reacted with caution.
“Let the bill be passed in the Parliament. Celebrating now would be a bit too early. Let the Bill cross the final hurdle and am sure Telangana people wont stop celebrating,’’ TRS MLA K T Rama Rao said, adding that he was confident the Bill would be passed in Parliament.
Osmania University students gathered in the campus and burst crackers and distributed sweets even as Telangana Joint Action Committee members arrived at the campus to congratulate student leaders and seniors who led the campaign.
“Telangana’s long wait is over. One week from now and our dream of a separate state will be a reality,’’ said student leader V Pravin. “We will watch keenly when the bill is presented in Parliament.”