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Cong sanitises ranks before Telangana test

New Delhi, Feb. 11: Sonia Gandhi today expelled six Andhra Pradesh MPs from the Congress as the government prepared to table the Telangana bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The expelled MPs are Sabbam Hari, G.V. Harsha Kumar, V. Arun Kumar, L. Rajagopal, R. Sambasiva Rao and A. Sai Pratap. Although the Congress has 18 Lok Sabha MPs from Andhra, it was this group of six that led the agitation against Telangana and repeatedly moved no-confidence motions against the UPA regime.

With this move, the Congress has cleared the way for strong action against protesters from other parties holding Parliament to ransom on the bifurcation. Such MPs will be barred from entering the House when the Telangana bill is taken up.

The bill was earlier supposed to go to the Rajya Sabha first but the inclusion of a financial package has given it the shape of a money bill that is usually taken up by the lower House. It is expected to be taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha on the same day it is tabled.

The sacked MPs wondered how the party leadership could be “so biased”, considering they were reflecting the sentiments of the people. Some other MPs from Andhra reiterated that they were opposed to the bifurcation and would vote against the bill. But they disapproved of their fellow MPs’ decision to move no-confidence motions against the Centre.

However, the expulsion could turn the six into “martyrs” and give them a new lifeline in their constituencies.

“They will become heroes in Andhra,” a Telangana MP said, adding the high command should have sacked them long ago and created the new state.

The MPs said they were now free of party discipline and could take any step to block the bill. Sabbam Hari has threatened self-immolation.

Senior Congress leaders said the action had been taken under duress as the plan to create Telangana had to be executed, come what may.

Digvijaya Singh, the general secretary in charge of Andhra, said: “The stage for reconsideration of the decision has gone. If we review the decision to create Telangana, there will be violence on the streets.”

The Congress core committee met today to discuss the roadmap for execution of the bifurcation plan.

Asked what would become of Andhra chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said: “The priority right now is to get the bill passed in Parliament. The party will deal with the defiant chief minister in the next stage.”

The UPA has been working to win BJP support for the bill in Parliament and sources revealed there had been positive indications from the rival party. The Prime Minister has also resorted to dinner diplomacy to win over the BJP, which has consistently rooted for Telangana.

BJP raises doubts

But BJP veteran Arun Jaitley today said he had a “lurking suspicion” that the government was dragging its feet on Telangana.

In a statement, the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said the Andhra Pradesh (Reorganisation) Bill, 2014, had not been introduced in Parliament because of lack of clarity on which House to bring in the legislation.

“There are also lingering doubts about whether the UPA is following, legally and constitutionally, the correct course in an effort to create the state of Telangana,” he said.

“I have a lurking suspicion that the UPA is prolonging the issue. Is the eventual intent of the UPA to make the issue of creation of Telangana infructuous in the present session (of Parliament) and consequently in the UPA rule?”

Jaitley sought to exploit the delay over creating Telangana — the only new state the UPA can possibly create in its present tenure.

“Issues such as formation of states create a strong underlying sentiment. It is unfair for political parties to create an aspiration and not fulfil it. The UPA should immediately introduce the Andhra Pradesh (Reorganisation) Bill for ratificationů. It must ensure that to the extent possible, it balances the interests of both the regions and that the bill is constitutionally compliant,” he wrote.

“I am looking forward to support(ing) the bill.”

The BJP has for long been a Telangana votary. Indeed, the creation of small states is virtually an article of faith with the party.