Andhra Pradesh (Reorganisation) Bill 2014 is one of the most undemocratically passed Bills in the history of Indian democracy. The passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha witnessed the climax of MPs ensuring the physical security to their leaders in the House
The Andhra Pradesh (Reorganisation) Bill 2014, facilitating the formation of Telangana as 29th state in federal India has been passed in the midst of ruckus, pandemoniumin, repeated adjournments, continuous disruptions and sloganeering in Lok Sabha on February 18, 2014 and February 20, 2014 in Rajya Sabha with the support of principal opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde introduced the Bill on February 13 amid din but a number of parties have refused to accept as it was tabled in haste and unceremoniously.
Telangana state comprising 10 districts—Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medak, Nizamabad, Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Nalgonda, Khammam and Mehboobnagar—is awaiting accent from President of India and a formal Gazette notification.
It is one of the most undemocratically passed Bills in the history of Indian democracy. The passage of Bill in Lok Sabha witnessed the climax of MP’s ensuring the physical security to their leaders in the house. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were protected by MPs till the Bill was passed.
Undeniably, the passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha was a blot on the conduct of the Lok Sabha. The process of creation of India’s 29th state and the issue concerning to nearly nine crore people of Andhra Pradesh was completed in just 29 minutes and was not seen live on television screens.
At one point, the BJP was caught unawares by the game played by Congress. The Congress took up the Bill in spite of violence inside the Lok Sabha and strong protests on the streets of Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. The principal opposition party BJP was not given any option to present its views on the Bill even after assured unstinted support to the formation of Telangana state. The BJP was duped by the Congress as some of its amendments were incorporated in the final draft of the Bill but not all, giving an impression that it was the Congress who made changes in the Bill.
The creation of Telangana state occurred in the midst of serious disturbances, hostility and hatredness among the people of both the regions. Undoubtedly, the ruling party members including the Union Ministers are responsible for such situation. The Lok Sabha had to suspend large number of members from Seemandhra. This resulted in a situation where bifurcation of the state in the absence of elected representatives from one region of the State. The telecast of the Lok Sabha proceedings was blacked out reducing the credibility of the decision making process.
The proceedings in both the Houses of Parliament give an impression that the Congress party was not transparent in its conduct over the creation of Telangana state.
Naturally, the question arises is that why the Congress party that won in 2004 on the promise of Telangana has played cynical games with the aspirations and sentiments of the people for nine long years? And, at a time when there are only a few months left before the people of this country vote again, the Congress party is rushing to announce Telangana?
Pandemonium in Parliament over Telangana issue thoroughly exposed the Congress’s incompetence and lack of ability to take and implement decisions. A vertical split within the Congress party has come to the fore indicating that the UPA has lost the authority to control its members of Parliament and Union Ministers.
Congress party members of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh are predominantly responsible for stalling the proceedings of the Parliament. The country had never witnessed such ugly and embarrassing scenes within the Parliament on any serious issue till date. Dangerous and prohibited devices are used by the ruling party members to block the Parliamentary proceedings. In a desperate move to stall the Telangana Bill, members of Parliament from treasury benches have entered with knives into the Lok Sabha and resorted to spray pepper powder onto the Speaker of the House.
The ruling party Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and some of his council of ministers openly defied the decision of the Congress Working Committee and have ensured complete paralysing of the state administration.
Aware of the fact that his action will not have any legal sanctity or effect, the then Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy moved a notice of resolution to reject the AP Reorganisation Bill. Astonishingly, the resolution was placed in the house and declared as passed within 15 seconds amidst pandemonium and strong protests from Telangana MLAs of the ruling Congress party. A section of the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh led by Kiran Kumar Reddy resorted to such a cheap tactic for political mileage in Seemandhra region. And, what the Parliament witnessed is an extension such ulterior motives.
BJP and the division of Andhra Pradesh
The creation of Telangana, having become a reality, political observers and media persons will now start analysing the political beneficiaries or otherwise of the decision. It would be unwise to view the decision of the central legislature only through this narrow prism. Telangana had become a legitimate aspiration of the people of that region. The sentiment was so overwhelming that to delay it any further would have precipitated greater unrest. It was next to impossible to reverse the aspirations of that region.
The mishandling of the issue in the last few years by the Congress party aggravated the problem. Instead of attempting to build consensus as was done in the course of creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand warring factions of the Congress party created a confrontation between the people living in the state. Governance in the entire state had come to a standstill. Andhra Pradesh has been one of the most enterprising states of India. To resolve the issue, one had to choose between political opportunism and statesmanship.
The BJP state unit had been committed to Telangana for over three decades. In 2006, the central party had endorsed the demand. The BJP, therefore, pursued its twin objects. Firstly, there must be creation of a separate state of Telangana. Secondly, there must be adequate justice done to the people of Seemandhra since Seemandhra economically was going to suffer as a result of the division of the state. Those who indulge in extreme posturing look for immediate gains. Balancing between the twin objects was not contradictory. People of Telangana are happy that their state has been created and that Hyderabad is an integral part of Telangana. The success or failure of the legislation, in both Houses, depended on the BJP. The balance of power was with the BJP. We decided to lead in favour of Telangana, which has been our longstanding demand.
There were two other challenges. How do you balance the interests of Seemandhra? How do you highlight the issue that the government has gone wrong in the process of creation of Telangana? While highlighting the latter, it was our duty as a vigilant opposition to point out that to vest the law and order power for Hyderabad in the governor instead of the council of ministers a constitution amendment may be necessary. Our stand was vindicated when the government’s response on this issue was at best half-hearted and unconvincing. Further, it was a part of the party’s conviction to extract from the government positive commitments with regard to safeguarding financial interests of Seemandhra. We used all parliamentary tactics available to pursue this end. Further, our position as a party, which had the balance of power in numbers, gave us an added advantage. On the floor of the Rajya Sabha we were, therefore, able to extract from the government the commitment that Seemandhra would get a special category status for five years, investments in Seemandhra would attract tax incentives on the lines made available to other states, a backward region package would be given for districts of Rayalseema and north coastal Andhra Pradesh. Polavaram, which had been declared a national project, will now have facilities of rehabilitation and resettlement, the resource gap for Seemandhra would be supported by the central government till such times the 14th
Finance Commission fixes it entitlement. This package is fairly reasonable and would substantially look after the interests of Seemandhra.
If any further demand needs to be pursued such as a support from the Centre in building a new capital for Seemandhra, the BJP will play a positive role in facilitating this aspiration also. As the dust settles down, it would become clear that even though the BJP was traditionally a smaller political group in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, it performed its duty with a sense of responsibility and tried to be fair between the two dividing regions of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh.
By Arun Jaitley
(The writer is Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha)
The manner in which Andhra Pradesh State was bifurcated into Telangana and Seemandhra states by the Congress-led UPA government has raised several vital questions including legal and constitutional.
The NDA government created the three states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand by a process of consensus. The Vajpayee government succeeded in getting unanimous resolutions passed by three state assemblies. But, the situation with regard to bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh was utter chaotic and created a gulf among the people of two regions. Unfortunately, the Congress did not make any efforts to build consensus among its leaders and cadres, within the government and within all political parties in favour of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and creation of Telangana state. Moreover, it deliberately allowed its leaders to speak in divergent voices.
There were hardly any efforts to assuage the anxieties of Seemandhra people and to take them on board. Most of the times, the Congress tried to brush aside the issue stating creation of a new state is “technical process”.
Article 3 of the Constitution gives to the central legislature the absolute discretion to divide a state. The centre can even divide an unwilling state. All previous precedents have been with the consent of the state. Andhra Pradesh is a state, which is being divided without a supporting resolution of the state legislature. It is necessary that the central government is fair to both the states and more particularly to Seemandhra. Ofcourse, Telangana, having Hyderabad, starts with advantage.
Telangana had become a legitimate aspiration of the people of that region. It was almost impossible to reverse the aspirations of that region.
A separate state of Telangana must be created. At the same time, there must be adequate justice done to the people of Seemandhra. Balancing between the twin issues is not contradictory. One way to alleviate the fears of Seemandhra is to compensate it adequately. The central government must categorically assure that new central government institutions would be additionally created in Seemandhra region. The irrigation projects would be statutorily protected. It must be ensured that as long as Hyderabad is the common capital, neutrality in the administration of law and justice of Hyderabad would be maintained. It must be ensured through a statutory protection that the special packages promised under clause 46 of the Bill and tax incentives to compensate the Seemandhra region for the loss of revenue being caused by the bifurcation of the original state of Andhra Pradesh.
Though geographically divided, the people of both the new states can be unified with a sincere and committed implementation of six-point development package for successor state of Andhra Pradesh, including grant of special category status that provides for tax incentives to Seemandhra.
In the following articles some of the serious implications of the Bill have been discussed.
By Balasubrahmanyam Kamarsu
(The writer is Advocate, Supreme Court of India)