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Parliament clears 29th state

Amid protests, Upper House passes Bill by voice vote; Seemandhra gets special status.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: February 21, 2014 1:10:58 am

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A seperate state of Telangana is finally a reality. With the BJP not insisting on a division on its amendments, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014 to create India’s 29th state by a voice vote, amid protests by regional parties led by the Trinamool Congress and Shiv Sena, forcing multiple adjournments, walkouts and an unprecedented expression of dissent by a union minister.

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The Rajya Sabha took up the Bill after the BJP agreed to the government’s suggestion that its demands for a financial commitment to Seemandhra would be reflected in a statement that the Prime Minister would make in the Upper House. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a six-point package for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, including special category status for five years and tax incentives to promote industrialisation and boost economic growth in both the states.

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Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh met top BJP leaders in the morning, where they arrived at the agreement, paving the way for passage of the Bill and fulfillment of a 60-year-old demand by the people of Telangana. Top sources said the text of the Prime Minister’s statement was shared with top BJP leaders including L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu.

Singh’s speech, however, was drowned in the slogan-shouting by TMC members who tore the official papers. The Congress came under attack from all parties, including the BJP, with Jaitley and Naidu saying the party was indulging in “vote bank” and “opportunistic” politics by dividing the state on the eve of elections.

Union Minister Chiranjeevi spoke against the bifurcation, saying it was being done in an unfair manner and he felt heartbroken.

The Left alleged “match fixing” between the BJP and Congress, and walked out before the passage of the Bill. The DMK, JD(U) and BJD members also left the House separately during the course of the debate, after their leaders opposed the division.

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The passage of the Bill was not devoid of drama. SP member Kiranmoy Nanda tried to snatch the Bill from Shinde, but Congress members foiled the attempt by gathering around the minister. TMC members led by Derek O’ Brien and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, along with JD(U) members, TDP’s Y S Chowdhary and C M Ramesh and Congress’s K V P Ramachandra Rao, protested in the Well of the House for nearly three hours when the Bill was discussed.

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