The UPA government has taken the final step of going with the promise of forming a separate Telangana state. Union cabinet has on Friday after a marathon four-hour meeting approved the Telangana Bill, to be introduced in Rajya Sabha on February 12. The Bill as passed by the cabinet will be sent to the president, and after it is returned from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, it will be introduced in parliament. As demanded by the people of Seemandhra region, Hyderabad will not get status of union territory.
Meanwhile, the supreme court on Friday dampened the spirits of Seemandhra campaigners, including chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who had planned the legal option as their last weapon to fight the Telengana bifurcation decision allegedly imposed by the Centre and Congress high command on the people of Andhra Pradesh.
Telugu Desam Party’s parliamentary party leader Nama Nageswara Rao along with 16 members of the TDP Telangana Forum and others met prime minister Manmohan Singh, and the reticent prime minister in an uncharacteristic outburst of candour told the delegation that the Telangana Bill will be passed in this session of parliament. Singh also wanted to know the position of TDP on the issue, and he was informed that the TDP has not gone back on its assent to formation of Telangana given in 2008, and all that it wants is that justice be done to Seemandhra region.
Nageswara Rao told dna that there will be a vertical split in the parties from Andhra Pradesh along the Telangana and Seemandhra lines. This will not make things any easier for the government. The opposition and intransigence of Seemandhra MPs will only intensify. BJP, the main opposition party, which has been in favour of Telangana, had indicated that its support for the Telangan bill will not be unconditional, and it will insist on moving amendments in both the Houses.
One of the major amendments which many of the parties want to move will relate to the status of Hyderabad. For example, the Hyderabad-based Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) will be moving three amendments seeking a separate high court, public service commission for Telangana. More importantly, the MIM will oppose the move which vests powers relating to law and order in Hyderabad to the governor. The MIM has made it clear that this will be a dangerous move, and that the ruling party at the Centre cannot be expected to be fair in dealing with the local issues in Hyderabad city.
Another contentious issue is that of forming separate water boards by the central government for the Krishna and Godavari rivers flowing through Telangana and Seemandhra regions. The MIM argues that water and irrigation and state subjects and they cannot be taken over by the Centre. He said this shows a lack of trust in the elected government of Telangana.
The fact that the bill is being introduced in the Rajya Sabha, though partially justified because the upper house is the Council of States, betrays a certain sense of nervousness and a tentative approach. If the bill is not passed in this session, it will not lapse because it has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha whose term is perpetual unlike that of the five-yearly Lok Sabha.
The bill as approved by the cabinet incorporates 33 amendments. No details are available about the amendments except the indication that Hyderabad will be the capital of Telangana.
It is learned that ministers agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress leader Sharad Pawar and rural development minister and Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh Jairam Ramesh wanted to know about the status of Hyderabad. Finance minister P Chidambaram made a presentation on the issue.
Meanwhile, the SC refused to interfere in the Centre’s plans to bring in a bill creating Telangana, as it dismissed nine petitions filed by Seemandhra leaders “We do not think this is the appropriate stage for us to interfere. There is no change in circumstances between November 18 when we dismissed petitions on the same issue, and now. They can file appropriate petitions at the appropriate time,’’ the top court said in its order.