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Passage of Telangana Bill a bit of an enigma

Highlights

Passage of Telangana Bill a bit of an enigma, Telangana Bill in parliament, Congress party. Will Telangana Bill be passed by parliament? This is the question on top of everyone’s mind in Andhra Pradesh.

Will Telangana Bill be passed by parliament? This is the question on top of everyone’s mind in Andhra Pradesh. Both the protagonists as well as those who are opposed to Telangana statehood demand are eagerly waiting for the decision of the highest legislative body in the country. All politicians of AP who matter are camping in Delhi in the hope to influence the course of the Bill.

Nobody, either in Hyderabad or Delhi, is in a position to answer the question whether the Bill would result in bifurcation. The drama is so long and consummate that the real intentions of the characters are camouflaged by rhetoric aimed at gallery. The moves of the players in the game of one-upmanship have been so inscrutable that even the best political analyst in the world would not be able to forecast the outcome.

Let us first take the attitude of the Congress party. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is credited with a view that a promise made ten years ago has to be honoured at any cost at least before 2014 elections. Having taken the stand, the party is not prepared to summon the leaders and convince them of its decision. Had it wanted to play the game in a fair manner it would have done just that. It had chosen to take a deceptive route for which we may blame Sonia’s advisors though the ultimate responsibility rests with her as the supremo. Had the Congress wanted to play straight, the party high command would have discussed with its chief minister before or after taking the crucial decision and brought him on to the same page, failing which it would have replaced him with a pliant politician, who are dime a dozen in AP like in any other State. In hindsight it would appear that the Congress party wanted to eat the cake and have it too. It wanted to keep its promise and its Lok Sabha seats in Telangana without losing in Seemandhra. The method it devised was to allow its Seemandhra leaders unlimited freedom to express their views publicly and vociferously even to the point of clashing with the views of the high command and openly snubbing it.

If one looks at the scenario that has been unfolding, it would be clear that the so-called rebels are only doing the roles suggested by the representatives of the high command. We witness a chief minister who was handpicked and nominated by the party high command castigating the party leadership in one media conference after another. He visits Delhi, stays at AP Bhavan for two days, refuses to attend an important party meeting at War House, meets no national level Congress leader and calls on President Pranab Mukherjee before leaving for Hyderabad. He also spent half an hour at Raj Ghat silently and about 3 hours at Jantar Mantar. This behaviour is most unusual for a chief minister of Congress party that is heading the ruling coalition at Centre. There is no reason why the media and the national parties should be upset when Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did the same thing in a more sincere fashion. The AAP leader was protesting against the attitude of the Union government headed by a different party or coalition. In this case Kiran Reddy remembers the virtues of silence after speaking on the floor of the Assembly for hours repeating himself. People who know the CM for long say he is not a rebel by nature. The general impression among the informed circles is that he is acting at the behest of his party leadership. Look at other heroes of the Congress party.

Vundavalli Arun Kumar, Rajahmundry MP, who is supposed to be most loyal to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and translator for Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, was highly vocal in his verbal attacks on the Bill. He gives a notice for a no-confidence motion. KVP Ramachandra Rao, who was granted a second term in Rajya Sabha by Sonia Gandhi only the other day, stands in Lok Sabha with a placard in hand. He is not known to be a very brave politician. He has all kinds of businesses requiring him to be on the right side of the powers that be. One need not be surprised if Kiran Kumar Reddy floats a party to enable all these “rebels” to contest on its ticket.

Congress or BJP would go only by perceived political interests. The Congress would force the TRS to merge and try to get the maximum number of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana. It may encourage its party leaders and cadres to work for the candidates of the new party. In such a case the YSRCP of YS Jaganmohan Reddy would find it difficult to face the TDP-BJP combine in Seemandhra. Whether the Bill is passed or stalled, this alliance would do well in Seemandhra. If the Bill is not passed, the Congress would draw blank in both the regions with TRS dominating the discourse in Telangana and TDP-BJP getting on top in Seemandhra. The TRS might go for an alliance with the BJP. The chances of YSRCP would be bright only if the Bill is passed. So, the Congress, in its own interest, would go out of the way to get the Bill passed.

What are the options before the BJP? If it helps the government in getting the Bill passed, it can claim to have kept a promise to support Telangana statehood. The BJP and the TDP can even hope to get some seats in Telangana. The combine has to contend with the YSRCP in Seemandhra where the TDP has reportedly been able to regain good support base. There is no way, however, in which any one party could get full benefit. In case the BJP refuses to support the Bill, it will be blamed for going back on a promise for a second time, each time because of the TDP. It will help neither the TDP nor BJP in Telangana. The battle for Telangana is crucial for the TDP-BJP combine since the alliance is reasonably strong in Seemandhra where the Congress vote would split in three ways.

Most politicians and journalists I met in Delhi on Wednesday say the chances of the Bill being passed are 50:50. My gut feeling is that the Congress will have its way ultimately and get the Bill passed. It will be examined by the Union Cabinet today and the President would refer it to parliament. As things stand now, the Bill would be introduced in Rajya Sabha on the 10th. The Congress has been working overtime to get its agenda through. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj has been talking in two tones. Union Finance Minister said no Bill will be passed in this session which is essentially meant to pass vote-on-account. The session has just 10 working days. With one day gone, only 9 days are left. The BJP has been insisting that they would support the Bill only if the House is in order and it did not want any Member to be suspended. It is an impossible condition.

The vexatious problems has been bothering Telugu-speaking people like a nightmare. It had virtually divided the people on regional lines. Even if the Bill is prevented and the State kept technically united, it is difficult to rule it. One has to also take into account the likely reactions to the status quo decision. Emotions and human relations are touching the raw nerves. It may be a drama for some Delhi-based politicians, but it is a veritable trauma for the people of the State who witnessed some of the worst forms of low cunning politics by their own politicians. Opposing the Bill at this stage on one excuse or other would tarnish the image of the BJP. Insiders say Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, is keen on keeping the Congress at bay by not allowing the passage of any Bill. The resources, enterprise and reach of the forces opposing bifurcation of the State are far superior to that of those who are supporting the statehood demand. The result of this protracted warfare might be known in a week from now. The BJP may create impossible situation in the House or it may shout at the ruling benches and stage a walkout allowing the Speaker or Chairman to pass the Bill by voice vote. Though it would be a bad idea to pass such an important Bill by voice vote, nobody can complain.

Not at least the Seemandhra leaders who claim that the Bill was rejected by the Assembly since CM’s resolution was approved by voice vote in less than a minute when the House was not in order. You can expect a photo finish to this nail biting last episode.

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