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Battle shadow hangs over last session
Centre fears bid to block key bills

Rahul Gandhi meets street vendors outside his residence in New Delhi on Monday. (AFP)

New Delhi, Feb. 3: The government today betrayed its fears that the BJP intended to block the Telangana bill as well as half-a-dozen anti-corruption bills, which the Opposition believes would be used in the upcoming poll campaign to build Rahul Gandhi’s image.

Parliament’s last session during the tenure of UPA II begins on Wednesday but the government is yet to receive any assurances from Opposition parties on its key agendas: Telangana statehood and a legal framework to fight corruption.

The third item on the priority list, the vote on account — a constitutional obligation — is not expected to face any hitch. The session will have barely 12 sittings.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath’s use of expressions such as “double game” and “double standard” about a dozen times in his customary pre-session briefing indicated the government was sensing trouble.

“This 15th Lok Sabha witnessed disturbances and disruptions like never before. This has been the least performing Lok Sabha. There is a new method of opposition: don’t oppose but disrupt,” Nath said.

“This is not good for our democracy. There will be a 16th Lok Sabha, then a 17th what will happen if this trend continues?”

Asked if he was warning the next government, Nath said: “We are not warning; we are only telling the truth. You can’t play the double game; you either support Telangana or oppose Telangana. You cannot proclaim support and then instigate disruption.”

Nath’s emphasis on “disruption” reflects a Congress assessment that the BJP would not allow a Telangana state to be formed before the elections. With the Congress’s fate sealed in Seemandhra, it can salvage some of its space only if it can claim credit for the creation of a Telangana state.

Nath pointed to the BJP’s opposition to action against disruptive members, seen as a ploy to encourage MPs from Seemandhra to sustain the chaos.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram, who was present at the news conference, said the Telangana issue would “not go away”.

“As long as there is no finality about the creation of the new state, there will be trouble. It will spill over to the 16th Lok Sabha as then also there will be MPs from both Telangana and Seemandhra,” he said.

“What will the 16th Lok Sabha do? So, instead of basking in the disruptions, the BJP should help us pass the bill.”

The government can take the ordinance route if anti-corruption bills are not passed but the Telangana bill has to be cleared in the House.

Lok Sabha leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj has asked why other parties should cooperate in passing the anti-corruption bills in the last session before the elections if they are to be used to spruce up Rahul’s political profile.

“This is not true. These bills have been pending for years,” Nath said.

While the Lok Sabha has passed two of the six anti-corruption bills, the Rajya Sabha has passed two others.

The government has also listed the women’s reservation bill and communal violence bill as priorities but getting the nod for Telangana and a few of these six bills in addition to the financial business would be a huge achievement in this short session.

Battle-ready

The focus of the main Andhra Pradesh players for and against Telangana has shifted to Delhi ahead of the Parliament session.

Statehood champion K. Chandrasekhar Rao, chief of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, will be fighting his cause in the capital as will the bill’s opponents, Congress chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and Telugu Desam boss Chandrababu Naidu.

Reddy plans a silent dharna at Shakti Sthal, the memorial to Indira Gandhi, on Wednesday in protest against the planned division of his state. Accompanied by Seemandhra Congress lawmakers, he is to meet the President the same day besides the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi.

Telangana PILs

The Supreme Court will hear on Friday two PILs challenging the Centre’s decision to carve out a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh despite the state Assembly rejecting the draft statehood bill.