New Delhi, Feb. 18: The Lok Sabha today pushed through the Telangana bill but the nation could not see live a milestone in the imminent birth of the 29th state of the Union because of a “technical problem” at Lok Sabha Television.
The live telecast stopped around 3pm just when Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde stood up to speak. The Lok Sabha secretariat denied suggestions of a deliberate “blackout” — although conflicting voices arose from within the government. ( )
The bill will go to the Rajya Sabha, probably tomorrow itself.
Just in case anyone wants to see the rare sight of the Congress and the BJP on the same side — supporting the bill — and the Trinamul Congress and the CPM on the other — opposing the bill — the Lok Sabha secretariat has helpfully pointed out in a statement that “all the proceedings are on record and in the public domain”.
The statement added that “the press was in full strength in the Press Gallery at all times to witness and report how the events unfolded”.
The Telegraph brings you what the public broadcaster could not. Don’t miss the toffee-distribution moment — so apt when a baby state is on its way.
Outer and inner perimeter security is tightened. Paramilitary and riot police are deployed.
Roads leading to the main Parliament gate are sealed. Only vehicles with Parliament passes and journalists with passes are allowed in.
MPs are not allowed to take vehicles inside at 11am but permitted later.
Additional Delhi police personnel requisitioned.
Parliament Security Service (PSS) staffers pulled out from other sections and placed at strategic locations.
Journalists frisked before entering press gallery. It is not done in normal circumstances.
Since last week, visitor gallery passes were being issued selectively.
Three marshals are earmarked for every suspended MP opposing Telangana to ensure that they do not sneak in. The mild-mannered uniformed men follow the anti-Telangana MPs wherever they move inside the Parliament building.
Telugu Desam’s Nimmala Kristappa wears a wry smile at the door of his party office in Parliament as well-built security officers surround him. “It is more than Z-plus security,” Kristappa says.
As Kristappa and a colleague move to the outer lobby of the building, so do the security officers, smiling at one another.
(“We had a hard time as we had to tail these MPs everywhere and we had to ensure no charge of manhandling was levelled against us,” a security officer later said.)
The PSS head, Ajay Anand, spends virtually the entire day in the Lok Sabha lobby. Another tense face is that of Special Protection Group (SPG) director Durga Prasad Kode, who is in charge of the Prime Minister’s security.
11am: Question hour is adjourned within minutes as anti-Telangana protesters troop into the well of the House.
12 noon: House reassembles. CPM members with placards rush into the well. Congress’s Andhra MPs and ministers also in the well, protesting against bifurcation.
Papers are laid in the din. Pro-Telangana members step into the well and raise slogans of “Jai Telangana”.
Home minister Shinde rises to present the Telangana bill for consideration and passing. Speaker Meira Kumar adjourns the House till 12.45pm.
12.45pm: House reassembles. The scenes are replayed. The home minister rises again and tries to press for the passage of the bill in the din. Speaker adjourns the House till 3pm. The Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi are not seen but Rahul Gandhi is present.
3pm: More than a dozen Congress MPs take position to guard the Speaker and the home minister from the protesters.
“What is this? The home minister of the country needs security? Tell me… I can provide security,” Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi says on seeing Congress MPs taking position to guard Shinde.
The Speaker comes and Shinde rises to present the bill. Sonia comes to the House but the Prime Minister is not seen.
Some half-a-dozen Andhra Congress MPs opposed to division rush to the well and stand near the Speaker’s podium on the treasury bench side. Among the ministers are K.S. Rao, Chiranjeevi and D. Purandeshwari.
They raise slogans of “Save Andhra Pradesh” and “We want justice”. No vandalism such as that witnessed on the pepper-spray day last week.
CPM members join the Andhra group. They carry placards declaring — “Save Andhra Pradesh” and “We demand undivided Andhra Pradesh. We oppose bifurcation”. The CPM members raise anti-Telangana slogans.
Shinde continues speaking in the din. He speaks for some 10 minutes and then leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj takes over. The slogan shouting continues.
Sushma’s best line: “I want to tell one thing to my Telangana friends. After the bill is passed, they will go out and sing and declare ‘Congress has given Telangana; Soniaamma has given Telangana’. Don’t sing what they sing. While you give credit to Soniaamma, don’t forget to give credit to this chinamma (aunt or literally little mother).”
After half an hour, the CPM MP from Kerala, Anirudhan Sampath, is seen distributing some capsule or tablet-like substance to his comrades. Sonia looks uneasy, possibly because of suicide threats from some anti-Telangana members.
Sonia’s uneasiness prompts the Congress MPs acting as the home minister’s guards to check what the tablet is. This leads to a mild scuffle between the CPM and Congress members. Sampath is seen throwing papers in the air.
Then, it is discovered that the tablet-like substance Sampath was distributing were toffees to help clear the throats of his comrades and keep up the pitch of the sloganeering.
After some time, the Congress guards and the agitating CPM members exchange toffees and smile at one another. Amendments and amendments to the amendments are being considered.
Trinamul members led by Kalyan Banerjee enter the well. “Aaj ka din kala hai, Congress-BJP chor hai (Today is a black day, the Congress and the BJP are thieves),” Trinamul members shout, pointing towards the unity between the treasury and the Opposition benches. They also raise slogans of “Rahul-Modi chor hai, Sonia-Sushma chor hai”.
The bill is finally passed around 4.25pm and the House is adjourned for the day.
The anti-Telangana and CPM members walk away quietly while the pro-Telangana group greets Soniaamma. Not confirmed if they greeted Sushma “chinamma”, too.