Will President Pranab Upset Congress Game Plan On Telangana?
For the second consecutive day, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde met the President of India Pranab Mukherjee to discuss issues related to formation of Telangana state bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, on October 31, 2013. On the previous day, after his meeting with the President, the Congress Core Committee hurriedly met at the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s residence in the afternoon, chaired by Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi. It was in this meeting that it was decided to again call for an all-party meeting on Telangana in order to get all the principal political parties on board.
Home Minister first said that they would seek written responses from the political parties, besides calling for a meeting before November 7, when the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Telangana slated to have its third meeting. Later, he said the date of all-party meeting would be decided depending on nature of responses. The Union Home Ministry also sent out invitations to the eight political parties in Andhra Pradesh include the Congress, MIM, TRS, TDP, YSRCP, BJP, CPI and CPM seeking their views on 11 issues before GoM, requesting them to submit it by November 5.
In fact, Congress circles gave an indication that a final draft on state bifurcation would be prepared on November 7 GoM meet, which would be forwarded to President after formal approval in the Union Cabinet, by November 15. Then, President is expected to refer the same to the Andhra Pradesh state assembly for its comments. The assembly is most likely to complete the process by the month-end.
In Seemandhra region, Sonia Gandhi is hoping that the YSR Congress Party headed by son of former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhra Reddy YS Jaganmohan Reddy will win the maximum seats out of 25 seats. The Union Cabinet approved note on Telangana on October 3, only after YS Jaganmohan Reddy was released from jail after spending 16 months in misappropriate assets cases.
Senior Congress leader and former minister J C Diwakar Reddy alleged openly that Jaganmohan Reddy was released on bail after reaching into an agreement with Congress high command only. Referring to YSR Congress Party’s public meeting in Hyderabad on October 26, he said as part of the agreement the Government of India had allowed 18 special trains to bring people for the meeting by suspending some regular trains on the pretext of heavy rains. Congress MP from Vijayawada Lagadapati Rajgopal also alleged that Jaganmohan Reddy had colluded with the Congress high command and became an adopted son of the party.
It may be recalled that Andhra Pradesh was key for the Congress in forming the UPA government at the Centre in 2004 and also 2009. In 2009, it was 33 Lok Sabha seats, won by the party from this state, which helped return to power at New Delhi. However, the present ground reality is worrying the party.
According to political observers, Sonia Gandhi used `Telangana’ as a masterstroke. It helps her come into understanding with TRS in the Telangana region and YSR Congress in the Seemandhra region. Together, Congress may mobilise support of about 35 MPs from Andhra Pradesh. This strategy makes her more determent on completing the process of Telangana state formation by 2013-end, ignoring all concerns drawn from the Seemandhra region. Fearing that most of the MLAs from the Seemandhra region are bound to defeat Presidential reference on Telangana on the floor of Assembly, which makes President uneasy to approve new state formation, Congress high command started thinking of bypassing Assembly reference at all.
Sensing that Smt. Sonia Gandhi is not in a mood to hear their concerns, the Seemandhra political lobby started approaching President directly seeking his intervention. Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Congress Party honourary president Smt. Y S VIjayamma met the President leading their respective party delegations, seperately seeking his intervention. Scores of Congress MPs and other leaders from the Seemandhra region also met him. At this juncture, the letter directly dashed by the Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy to the President pointing out bypassing several traditional conventions for carving out Telangana state sent alarming bells to the Congress high-command. Without any comment, President simply forwarded the same to the Home Ministry, seeking its comments.
Already, the Congress high command had tasted President’s style of functioning with regard to ordinance intended to save convicted politicians from losing their membership from legislative bodies, it has now decided not to take another change. The normal practice of Presidents was either to sign or reject any file being received from the Cabinet. Bypassing traditions, Pranab Mukherjee resorted to summon as many as three ministers on ordinance and asked their explanation. This makes the government `red faced’. Significantly, the Home Minister denied that he had discussed with the President the letter sent to him by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy. Shinde also refused to react on the objections raised by Kiran Reddy.
Sensing that President may not be taken for granted, the Centre is now pushed to clear the air and ensure that all shades of opinion are elicited. With growing criticism that no proper consultations have been made by the Centre with the stakeholders, it has decided to go in for another round of all-party meeting. There was an all-party meeting ahead of the decision on bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. As a logical step, the Centre has decided on another all-party meeting, before it firms up the Telangana Bill. The Centre is looking forward to concrete suggestions coming from the political parties on the provisions that require being included in the Telangana Bill. It expects the political parties’ proposals to reflect the popular demand of the people of the Seemandhra region, so that the process of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh could become smooth.
Chief Minister dashed his letter to the President on October 26, the same day when Seemandhra Congress leaders came back to Hyderabad from New Delhi in despair after failing to accomplish their mission of stalling the Telangana process. In his letter, he complained against giving up to established practices and conventions are treated on a par with rules and provisions incorporated in the Constitution and in accordance with other legislative references.
Causing severe embarrassment to the Congress party chief Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the Chief Minister requested the President to “direct the Union Government to seek resolution on the division of the state from the Legislature as per the conventions established”. Only on the previous day, the Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that in all-probability Telangana Bill would be introduced in the Parliament during its winter session, slated to begin during last week of November, 2013.
Kiran Kumar Reddy `complained’ to the President that the Government of India is trivialising the state bifurcation process by taking “shortcut routes” without doing any “homework”. He sought that “established practices and conventions” be followed by first referring the issue to the state Assembly for appropriate resolution.
“Strong belief is gaining ground that Government of India is ignoring majority people’s opinion,” the Chief Minister said in a three-page letter. He complained that the Centre added fuel to the fire by bringing the Cabinet
Note for creation of new state as “table item.”
Meanwhile, Rajahmundry MP Undavalli Arun Kumar (Congress) wrote a detailed letter to President Pranab Mukherjee to point out that under the constitutional scheme, a resolution in the present state had to become the basis for the initiation of the process of bifurcation of the state. This assumes significance as the Congress-led UPA government has taken a contrary position that the view of the State Assembly was not binding on the government. Arun Kumar referred to Article 3, which provides the President, and not the government, would refer to the State Chief Minister any proposed move to reorganise the state.
The state government, in turn, had to move an appropriate resolution in the state Assembly for the reorganisation of the boundaries of the state. While the state concerned is to be consulted, the President shall evolve the methodology in this regard of seeking the views of the state. The whole idea is that the initiation of the proposal for the reorganisation of the state happens in the state Assembly concerned and in Parliament, he added.
By Ch Narendra from Hyderabad