The contentious bill that will split Andhra Pradesh and allow the creation of Telangana, India’s 29th state, made it through the Lok Sabha Tuesday despite opposition, tumultuous scenes and a controversial “blackout” of the live TV broadcast of the proceedings.
Around 3.10 pm, Lok Sabha TV stopped showing the live feed of proceedings in the house as Speaker Meira Kumar went ahead with the process of passing the Bill and then moving amendments pushed by members from across parties.
The government also moved a series of official amendments after leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj indicated that her party backed passing the Bill. Only Swaraj and pro-Telangana Union minister Jaipal Reddy of the Congress spoke briefly on the Bill.
Armed with posters, MPs from the CPI(M) and a few others from Andhra Pradesh stormed the well and shouted slogans against the bifurcation of the state through the proceedings, rendering the Speaker’s words inaudible.
A number of amendments moved by MPs, notably Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress and Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMM, were defeated by voice vote even as both demanded a division vote, which the speaker did not allow.
Instead, the speaker resorted to a “headcount” of MPs for and against the Bill and the amendments by asking them to stand up — a move Roy and Owaisi protested against.
“We are not a herd of sheep, we protest this move by you, madam. We want division vote,” Roy was heard shouting. “The idea that is India is being challenged today.”
Seeing that the opposition BJP did not join the protest, a number of protesting MPs too stormed the well and alleged that both the government and the opposition had reached an understanding “to pass the bill by flouting established processes”.
Independent MP from Assam, S K Bwiswmuthiary chanted anti-bifurcation slogans through the 90-minute process.
But the fact that there was no live broadcast of the proceedings visibly irked a number of MPs who shouted that it was “a black day for democracy”.
The TMC’s Roy also lodged a protest in writing saying that Rule 367 had been flouted by not going for a division vote.
The ruckus continued nonetheless as Shiv Sena MPs along with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav stood up to join the protests.
With both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in the House, Congress MPs Sanjay Nirupam and Mahabal Mishra moved to the well ostensibly to assuage the protesting MPs. Former minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Finance Minister P Chidambaram were seen directing the treasury benches in their participation in the voice voting.
The Bill will now be brought to the Rajya Sabha.
Union minister from Andhra Pradesh, K Chiranjeevi, told reporters that while he had no intention of resigning at the moment, he would join in to stop the bill from being passed in the upper house.