With just four days left for the 15th Lok Sabha to end, Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party vied with each other to pass the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014 through voice amid the din. The Bill is expected to sail through in the Rajya Sabha after which it will go to the President for assent, following which Telangana, a burning issue pushed to the back-burner through much of the last decade, will become a reality.
On Tuesday, there was tension in the air as the House was adjourned at 11am, 12pm, 12.45pm before meeting finally at 3pm and getting down to the difficult business of seeing the bill through with its 37 official amendments and more than a score of unofficial amendments moved by Hyderabad-based Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM)'s Asaduddin Owaisi and Trinamool Congress' (TMC) Saugata Roy.
It took 105 minutes to pass the Telangana bill, the most contentious political and constitutional issue in a long time, in the Lok Sabha. Seemandhra MPs and ministers, members of TMC, Samajwadi Party, CPI-M and DMK stood in the Well of Lok Sabha and chanted: "We oppose, we oppose."
Earlier in the day, it became apparent that the Congress wanted to be seen as pushing the Bill as much as it could. At one point, it almost seemed that the ruling party was making a half-hearted attempt to do so. All the Congress members were present in the House. Party president Sonia Gandhi, who was not present in the House in the morning, turned up at 3pm as did party vice president Rahul Gandhi.
As on the day of the interim budget, several Congress MPs formed a cordon in front of Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde as he rose to move the Bill to be considered and passed, and he moved amendment after official amendment in the middle of unrelenting slogan-shouting of the Congress Seemandhra MPs and the TMC.
Leader of Opposition and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj stunned the House when she got up to speak and declared in a loud and clear voice that her party is supporting the Telangana Bill because it was committed to the idea of the separate state. She said that party leaders LK Advani, party president Rajnath Singh, former president Nitin Gadkari and the BJP's stalwart from Seemandhra M. Venkaiah Naidu had time and again reiterated the promise. She said that her party's support for Telangana was unambiguous and that she had informed parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath of the party's willingness to support the Bill. Like the Congress benches, the BJP too turned out in full strength and maintained a disciplined demeanour through the Bill's passage.
Shinde, in his opening statement, had said that the demand for Telangana is a long standing one and that the government was responding to the demand of democratic aspirations of Telangana. He expressed hope that the Telugu people of the two successor states live in amity. But the Congress made its political point by fielding Union minister for science and technology and senior Telangana leader S. Jaipal Reddy.
Reddy gave the full credit for Telangana to Sonia Gandhi and criticised the Seemandhra ministers for being in a political slumber for more than a year. He thanked Sushma Swaraj for supporting the bill inspite of LK Advani's reservations that the important bill is being passed without proper debate, trying to score a brownie point and driving a wedge in the BJP leadership.
Reddy in his emotional peroration assured that no person from Seemandhra living in Hyderabad will come to any harm and that he will defend their security till the last.