Home >Politics >Policy >Pepper spray clouds Telangana Bill in Lok Sabha
Several members from Andhra Pradesh have been protesting against the Bill that is aimed at creating India’s 29th state, Telangana, by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. Photo: PTI
Several members from Andhra Pradesh have been protesting against the Bill that is aimed at creating India’s 29th state, Telangana, by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. Photo: PTI

Pepper spray clouds Telangana Bill in Lok Sabha

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath alleged a Telugu Desam Party MP had even taken out a knife during the melee in the House

New Delhi: The endgame in the process of creating a separate Telangana state reached a crucial stage on Thursday with the government succeeding in introducing the controversial Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill in the Lok Sabha despite violent protests by some members of Parliament (MPs).

The unprecedented protests, including the use of pepper spray and the wielding of a knife in the House, eventually led to the speaker suspending 17 MPs.

Yet it is not clear whether the Bill would see the light of the day, especially since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led opposition is splitting hairs with the government on the technicality of tabling the Bill. According to them, the bill cannot be accepted as introduced. The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is adamant that it is.

Since Friday is a holiday, the matter is likely to be taken up on Monday after the presentation of the vote-on-account.

“The home minister (Sushilkumar Shinde) has moved the Bill in the Lok Sabha," R.P.N. Singh, minister of state for home affairs, announced after about an hour of turmoil in the lower House.

Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition, said members of the BJP, Janata Dal (United), Biju Janata Dal and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) met speaker Meira Kumar and informed her that they would not accept it as introduced.

“What the government was trying to do (was) violating all norms and breaking all precedents. We cannot accept it," Swaraj told reporters outside Parliament House.

Several members from Andhra Pradesh have been protesting against the Bill, which is aimed at creating Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has spearheaded a campaign for separate statehood to the region comprising Hyderabad, the state capital, and nine other districts.

Hyderabad-based political analyst Parakala Prabhakar said the chances of the Bill getting passed in the current session are very “slim".

“The Congress is not able to carry the party nor its allies along with the decision. The BJP is now insisting on a debate, which is highly unlikely when you have just a week left (for the session to be concluded). Anyway, the Congress is not going to gain anything either in Telangana or in Seemandhra region because if Telangana is created, it would be TRS which would be gaining mileage," Prabhakar said.

In the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014, which was distributed later, the government has promised the selection of a capital of residuary Andhra Pradesh within 45 days and tax incentives to promote its economic growth.

It envisages that Hyderabad will be the common capital of Telangana and so-called Seemandhra—comprising coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions—for 10 years.

MPs belonging to Seemandhra region of Andhra Pradesh banged on the table of the secretary general, snatched away mikes and one, L. Rajagopal, used a pepper spray. Many MPs and journalists sitting in the press gallery were affected by the spray. Rajagopal is one of the six MPs expelled from the Congress earlier this week for indiscipline.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath alleged that a Telugu Desam Party MP had taken out a knife during the melee in the House. Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla said strict action should be taken against MPs who had tried to “kill" other lawmakers.

The opposition blamed the government for mismanagement.

Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said in a statement: “UPA has lost the will to rule. Its ability to take and implement political decisions has come into severe questioning. The Congress Party itself is vertically split. Its members of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh are predominantly responsible for ensuring that Parliament is unable to function effectively."

He added: “Dangerous and prohibited devices are used to block the parliamentary proceedings. As against this, the BJP, including all its members, from both Telangana and Seemandhra region, are taking a cohesive stand in support of the creation of the state of Telangana while simultaneously addressing the legitimate concerns of the people of Seemandhra. Regrettably, the UPA has completely failed in this regard. The present crisis is directly on account of this failure"

When the House met at 12 noon, Congress floor managers fielded MPs from Telangana and other lawmakers such as Mohammed Azharuddin, Lal Singh and Raj Babbar, who stood up to try and protect home minister Shinde from protesters.

Amid the subsequent pandemonium, House marshals along with MPs belonging to Telangana grappled with Rajagopal to try and snatch away his pepper spray can. It took more than a minute for them to stop him from spraying the gas. Later an unconscious Rajagopal was taken to hospital.

Both Rajagopal and TDP member Modugula Venugopala Reddy, who was accused of carrying a knife inside the house, justified their action saying it was in self defence against “attack" by other MPs.

Speaker Meira Kumar later suspended the 17 MPs under rule 374 (A) that deals with grave disorder by members obstructing the business of the House.

The 17 are Sabbam Hari, R. S. Rao, V. Arun Kumar, Sai Pratap, L. Rajagopal (all of whom were expelled from the Congress earlier this week), Anantha Venkatarami Reddy, M. Sreenivasulu Reddy, (Congress-members from Seemandhra), Suresh Kumar Shetkar, K.R.G. Reddy, Gutta Sukhender Reddy (Congress-Telangana side) Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, S.P.Y. Reddy, Rajamohan Reddy (YSR Congress) and N. Sivaprasad, N. Kristappa, K. Narayana Rao and Modugula Venugopala Reddy.

The draft Bill says the central government will set up an apex council for the supervision of the Krishna and Godavari river management boards, amid concerns about water problems if the state is divided. The common capital includes the existing area notified as Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and the central government shall constitute an expert committee to give suggestions for a new capital for Seemandhra region. It has also tried to address the grievances of Seemandhra region by promising to take appropriate fiscal measures, including offer of tax incentives to the successor states, to promote industrialization and economic growth in both.

The government will provide special financial support for creation of essential facilities in the new capital of the successor state of Andhra Pradesh, including the Raj Bhavan, high court, government secretariat, legislative assembly, legislative council and such other essential infrastructure. The Andhra Pradesh governor will be the governor for both the successor states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and for the purpose of administration of the capital area, the governor shall have special responsibility for security of life and property of all those live in it.

Mint’s Gyan Varma in Delhi, Yogendra Kalavalapalli in Hyderabad and PTI contributed to this story.

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