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T-bill ire erupts on Kiran

Hyderabad, Jan. 27: Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy today faced a challenge from cabinet colleagues who questioned the resolution that he has moved in the Assembly seeking rejection of the Telangana bill.

Speaker N. Manohar is expected to take a call on the resolution, which will not be binding on the Centre even if it is passed but would rob it of the moral force to push the statehood bill in Parliament.

The resolution has sharpened battle lines as it has come with just three days left for the Assembly to send the statehood bill back with its opinion to the President before its likely introduction in Parliament’s February 5-18 concluding session ahead of elections.

If the Speaker allows the resolution, it could be carried as Seemandhra MLAs (175) outnumber Telangana legislators (119) in the 294-member House. But Reddy faced strong resistance from his Telangana cabinet colleagues, who accused him of not informing them before he moved the resolution two days ago. “He is not my CM,” declared deputy chief minister D. Rajnarasimha.

Rajnarasimha and others said they would meet the governor tomorrow seeking Reddy’s dismissal. “It is not fair for the chief minister to act in a manner that amounts to defying the Union cabinet, the Constitution and the President,” IT minister Ponnala Lakshmaiah said.

Reddy claimed he had moved his resolution under House rules. It says: “The Assembly resolves to request the President not to recommend the AP (Reorganisation) Bill for introduction in Parliament as it seeks to bifurcate the state without any reason/basis.”

But Telangana ministers have written to the Speaker to reject it. Today, Congress MLAs from the region rushed to the House podium in protest, forcing two adjournments initially and the third for the day — all in 10 minutes.

Reddy’s move is being seen as a last-minute bid to stall the bill as it comes over 40 days after the draft legislation reached the Assembly on December 15. The House was earlier supposed to send the bill back to the Centre by January 23. It received an extension till January 30. Reddy has sought another extension of three weeks, a move seen as a delaying tactic by the pro-Telangana group.

Union minister Jairam Ramesh has denied claims the bill is against the Constitution and stressed it will be discussed again by the panel of central ministers on Telangana once the Assembly returns it. He said the Assembly was only required “to send its opinion”.

The Assembly’s opinion is not binding on the Centre, which has the final say in statehood-related matters. But such disagreements did not occur when new states were formed earlier.

The bill’s passage in Parliament is pivotal to the Congress’s plans for the Telangana region that has 17 of Andhra Pradesh’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. The ruling party could face a tough battle in Seemandhra’s 25 seats.