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Tear-apart bill lives up to its name
Draft faces ire in AP House

Hyderabad, Dec. 16: The draft legislation on slicing Andhra Pradesh into two was tabled today but ran into a free-for-all as lawmakers opposed to the split ripped copies of the bill while the rival camp tried to stop them.

Assembly Speaker Nadendla Manohar adjourned proceedings for 30 minutes but the break lasted nearly three hours as he remained besieged in his chamber.

The House resumed around 1.30 but the day ended soon after without much headway on the bill that provides for the creation of Telangana, the country’s 29th state, a plan opposed by the two other regions — coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema that make up Seemandhra.

Congress chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who had warned his party high command against pressing ahead with the division, stayed away from the Assembly.

In the morning, Speaker Manohar had introduced the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2013 even as pro- and anti-Telangana legislators shouted slogans for and against the new state. Legislature secretary Raja Sadaram laid copies of the draft bill on the table of the House and read out a letter President Pranab Mukherjee had sent to the state on December 12 on the planned bifurcation.

Seemandhra MLAs protested, saying the bill had been introduced without any notice. They tore copies of the bill while some even tried to light matchsticks.

“It is just like a table item,” said senior Telugu Desam Party MLA Gali Muddukrishnama Naidu, claiming the introduction was not on the agenda.

Legislators from Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress took the lead in tearing copies of the bill and were soon joined by Desam MLAs from Seemandhra. As the din raged, Manohar adjourned the House around 10.

Seemandhra legislators then gheraoed the Speaker in his chamber. When the pro-Telangana MLAs learnt of the siege, they gathered outside the Assembly. The standoff lasted till about 1.30 when House marshals evicted the MLAs from the Speaker’s chamber.

After the House resumed, legislative affairs minister Sridhar Babu, who is from Telangana, reprimanded the Seemandhra MLAs, including those from his party. “The Speaker has the right to introduce the bill under Section 175(2). The Seemandhra MLAs are trying to stall the introduction of the Telangana bill undemocratically,” the Congress leader said, citing Assembly rules.

Deputy Speaker Bhatti Vikramarka Mallu, who was in the chair now, asked Desam boss and leader of Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu to begin the debate.

But Naidu refused to speak. The House was then adjourned for the day around 1.45pm.

The status of the bill remained unclear as Seemandhra MLAs later claimed the draft legislation had not been taken up as the Assembly’s Business Advisory Committee had not scheduled it.

However, the Telangana legislators, including Sridhar Babu, and the deputy Speaker said the House had already taken up the bill for discussion.

The 65-page bill includes 13 schedules and over a dozen administrative highlights on key areas like education, power resources, pension and sharing of river waters.

According to the bill, the new state will comprise 10 districts and have 119 MLAs and 17 Lok Sabha MPs. The residuary state of Andhra Pradesh will have 175 MLAs and 25 Lok Sabha MPs.

Desam boss Naidu and chief minister Reddy had both asked the Centre to reconsider the decision to split Andhra, with Hyderabad as the joint capital for 10 years, saying it would be a “gross injustice to one region”.

Reddy had warned of a huge backlash in the 13 districts that will form the residuary state, but the Congress appears to be banking on Telangana, with its 17 MPs, to reward the party in the summer elections.

The Centre, which is not bound by the feedback from the Assembly, has overruled Reddy. The bill, cleared by the Union cabinet, has been endorsed by the President, who has given the Assembly time till January 23 to debate and return the draft.

The President’s covering letter to the Assembly said the legislation for bifurcating Andhra “should be introduced in Parliament as early as practicable”.