History in the making in Andhra assembly

    By Mohammed Shafeeq , IANS,

    Hyderabad: History is in the making in Andhra Pradesh legislature, which finally took up for debate on Wednesday a bill for creating a separate Telangana state after days of bitter wrangling over the issue.

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    A war of words is on between the legislators of Telangana and Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) when the debate began on the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2013, sent by President Pranab Mukherjee last month for the legislature’s opinion.

    The unprecedented debate marks a significant step in the process for bifurcating the southern state, which was formed in 1956 with the merger of Telangana with the then Andhra state (now Seemandhra).

    Telangana, comprising 10 districts including Hyderabad, existed as separate state before the merger to create one state for Telugu-speaking people.

    Though Speaker N. Manohar has clarified that there will be voting on the bill after the debate and a negative vote could create hurdles when the bill goes back to the president on Jan 23.

    Legislators divided along regional lines are engaged in a heated discussion marred by allegations and provocative remarks, leading to repeated disruptions and adjournments.

    The speaker Friday adjourned the house till Jan 17. The last six days of the session are likely to see more fireworks.

    The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which along with YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) stalled the assembly for eight days to prevent a debate, finally reconciled.

    The TDP and Seemandhra legislators of Congress trained their guns on YSRCP by accusing it of cooperating in the state’s division by stalling the debate, which they believe will finally lead to the bill’s defeat.

    While the Congress and the TDP remained split along regional lines, YSRCP, which has no stakes in Telangana, has taken a clear stand in support of ‘smaikyandhra’ or a united Andhra Pradesh. It has been demanding that before taking up the debate, the assembly pass a resolution urging the central government to keep the state united. It was is also of the view that agreeing to the debate amounted to accepting bifurcation. Its legislators were finally suspended from the assembly to facilitate the debate.

    The blame game among the three principal parties for bifurcation is being played both in and outside the legislature. Seemandhra Congress leaders argue that their party took the decision to carve out Telangana state after both TDP and YSRCP supported the demand. The TDP claims that Congress is playing a ‘game’ through ‘match-fixing’ with TRS in Telangana and YSRCP in Seemandhra. The YSRCP blames both the Congress and the TDP for the bifurcation and claims to be the only major party which stands for ‘samaikyandhra’.

    As Jan 23, the deadline set by the president for the legislature to send back the bill with its views, is fast approaching, all eyes will be on the assembly, which will resume the debate on Jan 17 after the Sankranti holidays.

    What will be keenly watched are the actions of Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and Leader of Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu, two of the three key political players, both of whom are from Seemandhra. The third, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, is a member of parliament.

    “Wait and watch what I am going to do,” the chief minister quipped when he was asked at a news conference what he would do in the assembly.

    There has been a buzz in political circles that Kiran Reddy will announce his resignation during the debate on Telangana bill. Some even said he would float a new political party but he dismissed it as rumors.

    Opposing his own party’s decision to bifurcate the state, the chief minister is likely to come out with strong arguments for ‘samaikyandhra’. By insisting on voting, he is planning to turn tables on the Telangana lawmakers.

    “The opinion of the house will be known only through voting,” said Kiran Reddy, who believes any decision of the president would be based on the result of the voting. However, the leaders from Telangana, irrespective of their party affiliations, argue that there is no need for voting as the president has only sought the views of the house.

    Political analysts say if the fate of the bill is to be decided through voting, the result is a foregone conclusion given the strength of Seemandhra. Telangana has only 119 legislators in 294-member house.

    Speaker N. Manohar, who visited Uttar Pradesh and Bihar recently to study the modalities for the debate on reorganization bills in their assemblies, has also asked members to submit their amendments to the bill. These amendments are likely to be put to vote and may ultimately lead to the bill’s defeat.

    Thus sparks are set to fly in the legislature as it goes into the final leg of the debate on a bill that will decide the destiny of the state.

    (Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at [email protected])