Andhra Pradesh MPs protesting against Telangana in the Rajya Sabha
New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee today gave his approval to a controversial bill to create Telangana by dividing Andhra Pradesh, clearing the way for the Centre to introduce it in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The only hurdle that the bill faces is from the anti-Telangana MPs who have blocked all business in Parliament since last week.
Here are 10 developments in the story:
Anti-Telangana protests prevented any substantial business in Parliament today, as both houses ended early after repeated adjournments. In the Rajya Sabha, members of the TDP held up placards reading "We want United Andhra Pradesh" and shouted slogans during protests that saw some members tearing papers and breaking the chairman's mic.
The government has nine working days to debate and pass the bill before the end of this session, its last chance to deliver on its Telangana promise before the national election, due by May. The Congress is talking to its protesting MPs.
Sources say senior ministers are holding a series of meetings with BJP leaders to ensure the main opposition party's support in Parliament. "We are for the bill. Let the government set its house in order," said the BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is the deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
The BJP has reportedly asked for six changes in the bill, which includes the provision for a financial package for the Seemandhra region, or the area combining the two non-Telangana districts.
The Centre is reportedly worried that for its support to Telangana, the BJP may want a slew of anti-corruption bills that it described as "Rahul Gandhi's poll agenda", to be dropped.
The ruling Congress was today cautioned by its own ally, Farooq Abdullah, against creating Telangana without people's support. Stating that there had been "errors" in the handling of the row, the union minister said, "I think it has gone terribly out of gear. 70 per cent of people do not want division. If people of a state don't want the division of the state, and the state assembly has rejected it, then we should not go ahead with it in Parliament."
Mr Abdullah, whose National Conference co-governs Jammu and Kashmir with the Congress, said he was not present in the cabinet meeting on Friday that cleared the bill.
Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and other Congress leaders from the Seemandhra have been trying to stall the bill's introduction in Parliament hoping that Andhra Pradesh will head into the election undivided, sparing them the wrath of voters worried about losing power, water and other resources from Telangana. The MPs from the region have even submitted notice for a no confidence motion against their own Prime Minister.
The Congress last week accepted some of their demands but did not agree to designate the IT hub of Hyderabad a union territory. It will be a shared capital for the next 10 years between the old and new state but its revenue is unlikely to be divided, said sources. The Congress' central leadership believes that the move will be a vote-getter in Telangana.
Government employees in Seemandhra, which combines Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra, have started an indefinite strike against the state's bifurcation.