N Nagaraja Rao
The difference between the street and the Parliament blurred on February 13 as pepper spray, shards of broken glass, uprooted microphones and brawls turnedthe Lok Sabha into a battlefield between supporters and rivals of Telangana. The vandalism saw four MPs being taken to hospital—three were later discharged—and resulted in the suspension of 16 MPs who will not be allowed to enter Lok Sabha when it meets on February 17.
The Congress did succeed in getting theAndhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill “introduced”, but only after Parliament, although used to ever-declining standards of conduct, had plumbed new depths. The ugly events, mimicking some of the most shameful episodes in state assemblies, saw the SPG stepping up security of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singhinside Lok Sabha premises left the veterans shocked.
A day after Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy staged a dharna in Delhi questioning the Centre’s decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, political circles are abuzz with the talk of the AICC leadership initiating disciplinary action against Kiran Reddy for his ‘misdemeanour’ and some Congress leaders went to the extent of making guesses that Kiran might be asked to step down from the top post, paving the way for imposition of President’s Rule in the State soon after the polling of the Rajya Sabha seats that was under way when last reports came in. What gave fillip to this speculation is that AICC state affairs in-charge Digvijaya Singh’s reported comments before the Telangana Congress leaders, who had met him that a key decision with regard to Kiran would be taken by the AICC high command soon after the Rajya Sabha elections.
Many believe that Andhra Chief Minister is acting as per script directed by the Congress high command apparently prepared by Sonia’s loyalists to revive the party’s fortunes in Seemandhra. Also if the Congress was serious of indiscipline by its Chief Minister it should have sacked him soon on AP Assembly rejecting Telangana Bill by voice vote, but it did not. The participation of staunch loyalists of the AICC high command such as PCC Chief along with several Union Ministers in the protest strengthens this belief they dare not defy the high command and playing as per high command dictates and thus their party leadership might not dump Kiran who has successfully kept the party’s Seemandhra flock intact with his ‘rebellious’ posture. However, some others say that their high command may go to the extent of sacking him to make him a ‘hero’ in Seemandhra in the run-up to the general election. Kiran did declare that he might prefer to put in his papers if the Telangana Bill gets the nod of Parliament. But again, no promise was ever kept and “If Parliament gives its nod for the T-Bill, Kiran will have no option but to quit as there will be two governments in the state.
Politically Congress was banking on its breakway group of Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of late Chief Minister Dr Rajasekhar Reddy, to bail them out in the Lok Sabha elections but poll surveys are not favorably inclined owing to mass defections of cadres from his party to TDP and also BJP owing to Jagan’s autocratic functioning and also unilateral decisions caring little for the senior leaders who joined him soon on his father’s demise.
The final session of Parliament before Lok Sabha elections this summer has perhaps become the anti-Telangana protestors’ biggest platform, with demonstration outside Parliament, at Jantar Mantar and in parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Meanwhile, controversy over Telangana along with a number of other issues washed out proceedings in Parliament for the entire week which also saw seven Congress MPs — six from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha — resigning from Parliament membership in protest against the division of Andhra Pradesh. While the Lok Sabha members handed over their papers to the Secretary-General of the House, TK Viswanathan, Rajya Sabha member KVP Ramachandra Rao submitted his resignation letter to RS Secretary-General Shamsher K. Sheriff. The Lower House Members who resigned are the former Union Minister, A Sai Prathap, Anantha Venkatarami Reddy, CV Harsha Kumar, V Arun Kumar, L. Rajagopal and SPY Reddy. A day after the Cabinet approved the formation of Telangana, four ministers hailing from Seemandhra region of Andhra Pradesh have quit the Union Council of Ministers. Union Ministers Chiranjeevi, Pallam Raju, Kotla S Reddy and KS Rao have submitted their resignation papers over the issue.
On the other hand, BJP has offered conditional support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s on the Bill, making it clear that the government should address concerns of the people of both Telangana and Seemandhra. The Prime Minister had invited BJP leaders LK Advani, Rajnath Singh,Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley over lunch to end the current impasse in Parliament and discuss crucial pending bills. Union ministers AK Antony, P Chidambaram, Kamal Nath and Sushilkumar Shinde were also present during the meeting. The sources said the BJP leaders informed Singh that their stand on Telangana has not changed and asked the government to “put its own house in order” as Congress MPs were in the forefront in disrupting Parliament. On February 12, Congress cracked the whip expelling six MPs opposing the formation of Telangana from the party for agitating. They had given notice of non-confidence motion against their own government. Since the T people are awaiting with bated breath to get rid of the majority tyranny of so many years, any back-tracking, or smart-alecness will be disastrous feel local BJP leaders who also reached New Delhi to drum up support for the Bill.
‘Wait and Watch’ attitude is strategically played out by all stake holders. There is even a speculation that opposition TDP is advocating status quo and BJP cozying up to pro-status quo forces in AP. But can a pro-change agent don a no-change mantle is the real question?