|Television footage shows MPs shouting slogans as Manmohan Singh speaks in the Rajya Sabha. (PTI)
New Delhi, Feb. 20: The Telangana bill was on its way to Rashtrapati Bhavan after the Rajya Sabha delivered it this evening to the cries of “phaad do, phek do” (tear it up and throw it) by Trinamul members.
The bill needs the assent of the President to become a law, following which two notifications can lead to the formation of the new state if no legal challenge is mounted and upheld.
White confetti — made in the well of the House in full view of the country by the skilful fingers of Trinamul MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy who was lost in shredding papers — is certain to be the birthmark of the new state, although hot pink is the favourite colour of the region. Derek O’Brien lent vocal and visual support to his colleague by holding aloft a placard.
Also lost in the din was the unusual floor coordination between the Congress and the BJP which gave up its intransigence after the Prime Minister announced a package for Seemandhra, the residual part of Andhra Pradesh after bifurcation.
The beleaguered ruling party showed that when it came to parliamentary management, it was still a past master.
Trinamul’s raucous attempt to hijack the anti-bifurcation plank, driven by home-grown concerns about Darjeeling, probably helped the government have its way.
The relentless shouting ensured that Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P.J. Kurien could merrily declare “the ayes have it, the ayes have it, the ayes have it” without having to straining his ears to establish which decibel — ayes or nays — was higher.
The bill was also passed by voice vote — as was the case in the Lok Sabha.
When a few members asked for voting on some amendments, Kurien asked: “How is division possible in this atmosphere?”
Which suggests that the chorus of “phaad do, phek do” was in effect music to the government’s ears.
One casualty — other than parliamentary decorum that anyway had been pepper-sprayed — was the statement of the Prime Minister which got drowned in the ruckus.
Manmohan Singh announced a special category status, including tax incentives, to the residuary state that will have 13 districts as part of a six-point development package. The special status would be extended for five years.
“I hope these additional announcements will demonstrate our steadfast commitment to not just the creation of Telangana but also to the continued prosperity and welfare of Seemandhra,” Singh said, according to the draft on the PMO website.
As is the practice these days in Parliament, a protective cordon was thrown around Singh as well as home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde by Congress members.
The BJP tried to dispel suggestions of a deal — the opponents kept shouting “BJP-Congress bhai, bhai” — by fielding Venkaiah Naidu who came armed with well-drafted amendments.
Earlier in the day, leaders of the BJP and the Congress had held consultations till around 3pm.
All through the debate and in the intervening period between adjournments that ranged from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, the Congress floor managers were active. Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath was seen chatting with leaders of small parties while Jairam Ramesh kept visiting the Opposition benches. Minister Rajiv Shukla also kept up the dialogue with Opposition parties.
In the House, when Naidu insisted on a point, Shinde reminded him: “But you had agreed to it in the morning.”
At one point, when a disappointed-looking Naidu asked for some clarification, BJP leader Arun Jaitley asked Ramesh to hand his colleague a copy of the Prime Minister’s statement.
Jaitley said he had “mixed feelings” and was disappointed with the way the UPA government had gone about bringing the legislation.
“We are in favour of Telangana but we want the process to be lawful,” said Jaitley pointing to a provision by which Hyderabad’s law and order will be in the hands of the governor.
Jaitley said if the government was ready for a constitutional amendment to redress the problem, the BJP would support it.
But Jaitley appeared satisfied by an assurance from law minister Kapil Sibal, who said the next government could take it up if it becomes an issue. Sibal went on to thank Jaitley for the support.