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The terrible mess made of AP bifurcation in last lap

Highlights

The terrible mess made of AP bifurcation in last lap, Manmohan Singh, K Ramachandra Murthy. One can understand PM’s agony. But who is responsible for the ruckus whether it is inside Parliament or outside.

It is disgusting, to say the least. The heart of every Indian, including that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is bleeding at what has been happening in Parliament. PM says it is sad for democracy that such things are happening. Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Hamid Ansari, Rajya Sabha Chairman, seldom smiled during the extended Winter Session. We had the mortification of watching Kotla Suryaprakasa Reddy, Minister of State for Railways, walking into the well of the House to derail the budget speech of the Cabinet Minister Mallikharjun Kharge. Ministers like Pallam Raju, KS Rao and Purandeswari, who are known for decent behavior, were seen waving fists and mouthing slogans till the last minute. The anti corruption agitators have been dinning in our ears that Parliament had ceased to represent true democracy long ago. They seem to be right, after all.

One can understand PM’s agony. But who is responsible for the ruckus whether it is inside Parliament or outside. People across the country, watching the bizarre developments on TV screen, are sure to lose faith in parliamentary democracy. Kharge had to wind up his maiden budget speech in Lok Sabha in less than 10 minutes amidst din.

The mishandling of Telangana issue by the UPA government had not only created bad blood among Telugu-speaking people but also affected national interests. Parliament, supposed to be the temple of democracy, was not allowed to function. The 15th Lok Sabha which is having its last session has been the least productive. Disruptions of the proceedings have become such a common occurrence that they ceased to cause outrage any more. The main offenders this time around have been members of Parliament from AP.

The Congress high command in the game of political expediency has gone to unimaginable extremes in AP. Its national leadership saw an opportunity in the difficulty faced by the people of AP. It tried to take advantage of the vertical division in the rank and file of the party on regional lines and allowed regional leaders to speak and act the way they deem fit. They have been behaving like bullies indulging in choicest abuses and endless blame game. The final act is being enacted by the main players. With the introduction of Telangana Bill due on Thursday, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy may quit and prepare to launch a new party. Union Ministers from Seemandhra are in a fix. They have to decide whether to stay in the House, suggest amendments or resign. All these unusual problems arose due to lack of statesmanship. The haphazard manner in which the UPA-II went about bifurcation business since July 30 last year when the Congress Working Committee made a decision to honour its own decision of December 9, 2009. A lot of time was wasted.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have talked to the Congress MPs and ministers from AP and thrashed out a formula that would be acceptable, or least painful, to both the regions. After taking the party colleagues on board, he could have called K Chandrasekhar Rao, TRS chief, Chandrababu Naidu, TDP supremo, Jaganmohan Reddy ,YSRCP president, and leaders of other Opposition parties to Delhi and persuaded them to agree to the formula or make suitable changes to the formula basing on the suggestions that come up in deliberations . If he thought it was beyond his capacity, he could have asked Sonia Gandhi to take up the task. Both Singh and Sonia did precious little to bring about a rapprochement between the warring leaders of the two regions. Instead, they employed Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of AP, and Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Home Minister, who made a mess of the whole exercise. The decision by the Congress Working Committee, in the first place, was late at least by two years. Had the UPA-II continued with the announcement made by Chidambaram, the then Home Minister, the government would have had enough time to manage things. It should have at least followed up the Justice Srikrishna committee’s report. It did not want to risk its existence and waited till the term of the Parliament was about to end. The way the Telangana Bill was sought to be tabled in Rajya Sabha first and then going to Lok Sabha after realising that it is a Money Bill is atrocious. Chidambaram, Union Finance Minister, is a member of the Congress core committee and also the Group of Ministers on Telangana. Chidambaram, the Harvard alumnus, should have known if it were a Money Bill or not. He proved Narendra Modi, BJP Prime Ministerial candidate, was correct in his derisive comment that “Hardwork” is better than “Harvard”. Rajiv Gandhi sat throughout nights for several weeks negotiating with Prafulla Mahanta and other leaders of Asom Gana Parishad to resolve Assam crisis in 1980s. The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is more complex with people of both regions taking irreconcilable stand.

In the absence of any sensible and constructive initiative from the Congress, the TDP also played the same tricks with the people. All other parties, with few honourable exceptions, adopted tactics which were deceptive. As a result, anybody can talk anything without any respect to the Constitution, law or fact. Article 3 of the Constitution, Srikrishna Committee Report and election manifestos of the Congress and the TDP in 2004 and 2009 general elections are misinterpreted to suit their argument with scant respect to truth.

At last when Parliament is about to consider the issue of bifurcation, the BJP developed cold feet. Electoral calculations clearly establish that there would be no gain for the BJP if it supported T Bill. But it would lose credibility if it went back on its promise to back Telangana demand. The primary concern should have been the welfare and development of the people of AP. Utmost importance is given to electoral prospects. Decisions are changed according to convenience.

In the process people have lost faith in the power of debate and argument. Tolerance levels have plummeted . Lok Satta’s Jayaprakash Narayan, a capable communicator, has been finding it impossible to communicate with the people. When he wanted to tour Seemandhra to persuade people to accept the division with some conditions, he was hooted at Kurnool and was sent back from Anantapur. At AP Bhavan on Tuesday what all he said was that the UPA government had done a bad job of bifurcation. It was perfectly a valid point. But one Telangana protagonist caught JP by collar and was about to manhandle him.

It is impossible to talk sense in the streets of Andhra Pradesh. Same is the case with the Legislatures. MPs from Seemandhra and Telangana almost came to blows in Parliament on Wednesday. Whatever may happen to AP Reorganisation Bill-2013 today in Lok Sabha and later in Rajya Sabha, the way the government, various political parties and different sections of society had gone about it did a lot of damage to the cause of democracy. The public sphere has been debased by all concerned. This is the saddest part of the story.

The fate of the Bill depends on the strategy to be followed by the BJP. The pros and cons are equally divided. It makes political sense not to cooperate with the government since the Bill is defective and the situation on the ground is not congenial. But going back now when the Bill is in Parliament would tantamount to backing out when it matters most. That would not only affect the credibility of the party but also its prospects in Telangana where it has some base. The gains in Seemandhra from an alliance with the TDP are only the realm of imagination. The party is yet to decide whether to go with the TDP or not. It is still open on this account. The BJP could decide to end the trauma without carrying it into next Parliament when NDA would probably be in power. Bifurcation of AP is not as easy as division of MP or UP or Bihar. The T question is the most complicated that the independent India had ever negotiated. The BJP may after all blame the UPA for the deficiency and finally bail it out. We don’t have to wait for long to know.

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