Lok Sabha clears T-Bill, sets off celebrations & protests

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Chaos, media blackout in House; RS may take up bill today

Lok Sabha clears T-Bill, sets  off celebrations & protests
The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Telangana bill, paving the way for the bifurcation of India’s fifth largest state to create the 29th.

There was pandemonium and an unprecedented blackout of television coverage of the House proceedings, as the members of the BJP and the ruling Congress came together to adopt the legislation, christened the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, by a voice vote.

Later in the day, the government said it would “immediately” bring the bill in Rajya Sabha. Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill will be brought in the Upper House “immediately” along with the 39 amendments approved by Lok Sabha. The BJP said it would move some amendments in Rajya Sabha.

On Tuesday, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde piloted the clause-by-clause amendment amidst complete chaos and disorder in the House for nearly 90 minutes. He promised to provide a special financial package to Seemandhra to address the concerns of the people of that region.

In the bill, the government has promised to set up an expert committee within 45 days of formation of Telangana to give suggestions for a new capital for residuary Andhra Pradesh.

It envisages that Hyderabad will be common capital of Telangana and Seemandhra for 10 years. The government also proposes to take appropriate fiscal measures, including tax incentives to the successor states, to promote industrialisation and economic growth in both states.

The passage of the bill by the lower House brings to an end the process that was set in motion by the then Union home minister P Chidamabarm in 2009. The bill was introduced on February 13 amid bedlam, including pepper spraying, fisticuffs and breaking of House properties, leading to the suspension of 16 MPs.

One of them, Seemandhra MP L Rajagopal, who splashed pepper spray in Lok Sabha last week, resigned from Parliament on Tuesday and relinquished politics.

The Lok Sabha’s decision was greeted with wild celebrations in Hyderabad, the nerve-centre of Telangana, but it also triggered protests in the rival Seemandhra region.

YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy, who had been suspended last week for disruptions in the House, called it a ‘black day’ for the country and announced an Andhra Pradesh bandh on Wednesday in protest. “Democracy has been killed in broad daylight,” he said.

Apprehending trouble in Andhra Pradesh, the Centre has deployed nearly 10,000 additional central forces to deal with pro-and anti-Telangana agitations.

State chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who belongs to the Congress and has been resisting the division, is likely to resign on Wednesday and float a new party, PTI quoted a close aide of his as saying in Hyderabad.

The lower House resembled a virtual battlefield when the MPs assembled at 3 pm, with Congress members Aaron Rashid, Lal Singh, Bhakta Charan Das, Hamdullah Syed, Mahabal Mishra besides others forming a human shield around Shinde and other party bigwigs — Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union ministers P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath — who were seated in the front row.

Even members of archrivals CPM and TMC came together and protested in the Well of the House, mindful of the fact that the move may trigger a similar demand in West Bengal for the creation of Gorkhaland.

Union ministers Chiranjeevi, K S Rao and Purandeshwari were in the Well of the House demanding “justice” while two others — Pallam Raju and Killi Kruparani — were standing in the aisle. The protesting MPs held placards that read, “Save Andhra Pradesh”, “We Oppose bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh” and “We want an undivided Andhra Pradesh.”

The protesting MPs repeatedly raised slogans protesting the bifurcation of Andhra. The TMC members were heard shouting “aaj ka din kala hai, Congress-BJP joda hai, aaj ka din kala hai, Rahul-Modi joda hai, Sushma-Sonia jodi hai” (it’s a black day as Congress and BJP, Rahul and Modi and Sushma and Sonia have come together).

Chiranjeevi later threatened to stall the Rajya Sabha. “The show has not finished,” the actor-turned-politician from Seemandhra said.

Telangana Congress MP Ponnam Prabhakar touched the feet of Sonia Gandhi during the House proceedings and even tried to take out a poster of her but was told not to do so.

The leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, lashed out at the government for the manner in which the bill was being passed. “I and my party support the bill. Telangana should be created. We rise to prove our credibility and to see to it that the wishes of the youth of Telangana are fulfilled," she said.

Accusing the Congress of not only delaying the formation of Telangana but also mishandling the situation, she recalled how the Atal Behari Vajpayee government had created three states without any disturbance in any of the regions.

“You have been in power in the last 10 years, but you did nothing. You just sat over it,” she told the Congress.

Union minister Jaipal Reddy said the demand had been there for 60 years. “I don’t think any demand has been raised for such a long time with such an intense feeling,” he said and wondered if the Seemandhra leaders were “sleeping like Kumbhakarna” in all these years. But he was promptly told by Sonia not to use harsh words.

The 90 minutes of crucial proceedings were blacked out, as there was no live coverage on Lok Sabha TV.

Deploring the manner in which the bill was pushed through amid complete blackout of TV coverage of the proceedings, a Trinamul Congress (TMC) MP said it was reminiscent of the Emergency days. Union home minister Shinde justified the passage of the bill in the din, saying, “aise cheeze hoti rahti hain (Things like these do happen).”

Lok Sabha TV CEO Rajiv Mishra later said the blackout was due to a technical snag that occured in room No. 50 in Parliament House from where the channel gets live feed.

“There was some technical snag and we had no option but to stop telecast,” he said. Later, the Lower House secretariat in a press release regretted the incident. “The proceedings of the Lok Sabha could not be telecast live by Lok Sabha Television due to technical problems when the House assembled at 3 pm today. The CEO of LSTV is probing into it,” it said.

Asked about the passage of the bill, Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) MP and yesteryear actress Vijayashanthi said, “Seemandhara people have lost, we have won.”

At the end TRS chief K Chandrasekar Rao walked up to Sushma Swaraj and thanked her, only to be followed by Vijayashanthi.

Heavy security was deployed outside the Parliament complex and in its vicinity to prevent any untoward incident.


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