Congressmen revolt in LS over Telengana

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A huge ruckus over the government’s move to carve out Telangana derailed rail minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s interim rail budget presentation in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

It took just four Congress ministers, expelled party MPs and those still in the ruling party dead set against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to frustrate Kharge’s attempt to present the budget.

He was forced to cut short his speech but managed to just read out a few promises like a rail coach factory in Rae Bareli, but his voice was drowned out in the pandemonium.

Members of the opposition Telugu Desam and breakaway YSR Congress members of YS Jaganmohan Reddy added to the pandemonium, as Congress president Sonia Gandhi sat stoically and Rahul Gandhi in the backbenches chatted animatedly with party MPs and ministers from Andhra Pradesh. The pandemonium went on for 40 minutes.

Kharge’s interim rail budget was taken as read. Prime minister Manmohan Singh later said his ‘heart bleeds’ at the way the Lok Sabha had been disrupted since its reconvening on February 5.

As if to rub salt on the Congress leadership’s injury, HRD minister Pallam Raju openly defied the prime minister and supported those colleagues who disrupted the House to prevent a division of Andhra Pradesh.

Raju called the prime minister’s remarks unfair.

Noisy Congress members and ministers occupied the well of the House, forced two adjournments and tore up some papers at Speaker Meira Kumar’s podium.

Members of the main opposition BJP-led NDA sat bemused at the discomfiture and humilation the Congress leadership was suffering.

Pallam Raju and also Panabaka Lakshmi egged the protesting members on. S Jaipal Reddy from the Telangana region sat through with an amused look. The expulsion of seven Congress members from the Seemandra region a day earlier by the party president only provided grist to the protests, which were joined by other MPs and ministers like Kavvuri Sambasiva Rao, Chiranjeevi, Purandareshwari, Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy in the well of the House. Later, textiles Minister Rao told newspersons, “How can we allow bifurcation of our state based on a table-item in the cabinet with just 10 minutes given to understand the implications of the proposal?”

Interestingly, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrashekhar Rao, watched the disruptions without a word. His estranged colleague, Vijaya Shanti, did not turn up.

JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav, left MPs, Trinamool Congress members and Congress leader Jagadambika Pal tried to pacify the protestors but to no avail.

At the end of the day the question on everyone’s lips was whether UPA would table the Telangana bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. Will the Congress be able to bring BJP on the same page for getting the bill in its present form passed in this last session?

The jury is out on this but it is a fact that BJP in favour of smaller states and wants a Telangana state. But it has been demanding several amendments to the bill, especially to seek a financial package for the Seemandhra and Rayalaseema regions which will lose out hugely on revenue if Telengana is formed.

“Let them first come up with a bill in the House. Based on specific provisions, we will chalk out our strategy,” said a senior BJP leader.

But, having come this far, even BJP may have very limited options. It cannot really back out on Telangana. If the Telengana tangle is not resolved now and if it comes to power in the general elections, BJP will have a hot potato on hand – just as the Congress has now.

Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu has been on record saying the government should come with a financial package and address concerns of Seemandhra and Rayalaseema.


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