The process to create Telangana, India's 29th state, crossed the major Lok Sabha hurdle with the BJP coming in support of the UPA to clear the Andhra Pradesh State Re-organisation Bill amid din.
The House saw a rare scene when the bill's supporters had to frequently stand up for head count as Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar chose to ignore the repeated demand for a division or voting. The live telecast in Lok Sabha TV also went off air suddenly. Lok Sabha secretariat later cited technical problems for the blackout.
The bill is likely to be placed before the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, where the ruling dispensation does not enjoy a majority. Congress strategists did not rule out the possibility of the BJP pushing further amendments to the bill in the Upper House. Any change in the bill will require a fresh approval from the Lok Sabha as well, which might delay its passage.
During the past few months, several Congress lawmakers have been protesting for and against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. On Tuesday, as the bill was slated for a discussion and passage, Trinamool Congress and its arch rival, Left parties, together jammed the Well of the House. Samajwadi Party and a few Congress MPs and ministers from Seemandhra also stood in the Well.
TMC members were shouting "aaj ka din kala hai, Rahul-Modi joda hai and Sushma-Sonia jodi hai (today is a black day as Rahul and Modi and Sushma and Sonia have ganged up)".
After the first two attempts to pass the bill failed at 12 noon and 12.45pm due to din, the Lok Sabha finally took up the matter at 3pm. A significant part of the visitors' gallery was cleared minutes after home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde sought leave of the House for the passage of the bill.
The House looked a virtual battle-ground with Congress members protecting Shinde and other top leaders from protesting members.
An agitated Ray protested, "We are not sheep. Why are the members being asked to stand to count their heads?"
Although BJP's Sushma Swaraj announced at the beginning of her speech that her party supports the creation of Telangana, she accused Sonia Gandhi of delaying the issue for almost 10 years.
"You (Gandhi) cannot control your own MPs, chief minister and ministers. We had created three states smoothly, without any bloodshed," Swaraj said.
Moments after the passage, YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy, who was suspended last week for disruptions in the House, declared an AP bandh on Wednesday calling the decision a "black day" for the country. Democracy has been killed in broad day light, he said.
State chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who belongs to Congress and has been resisting the division, might resign on Wednesday and float a new party, PTI reported.
In the light of last week's proceedings when Seemandhra MP L Rajagopal sprayed pepper and another MP broke mike 16 MPs were suspended.
While the UPA managed the BJP’s support for the bill, the saffron party’s PM pick Narendra Modi hit out at the Congress at a rally in Karnataka and said Sonia and Rahul Gandhi had not time to visit Andhra or Hyderabad and that the Congress had hurt the people of Telangana.
Participating in the debate, an emotional Jaipal Reddy reminded that the Telanaga struggle was the longest agitation for a separate state in the country.
“I assure Soniaji (Gandhi), as long as I am alive we shall not allow any discrimination with outsiders in Telangana.”
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