Political parties took on the government in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday making insinuations that the move to rename Uttaranchal as Uttarakhand reeked of political opportunism ahead of the polls scheduled for February next year.
Though divided on most issues, the BJP, the SP and the Left put up a united front in the House arguing that the timing of the Uttaranchal (Alternation of Name) Bill, 2006 raised suspicions that it was a political gimmick to woo the electorate.
Notwithstanding the opposition from a cross-section of MPs, the bill was ultimately passed by voice vote after the Lok Sabha adopted it on Tuesday.
BJP MP Ravi Shankar Prasad said the move would cost the state government at least Rs 400 to Rs 500 crore. He said while it was the prerogative of the Parliament to rechristen a state, what intrigued him was that the Congress had raised the issue ahead of the elections.
CPI-M member Brinda Karat supported the Bill but expressed reservations about its timing. Banwarilal Kanchal of the SP said the Congress was wrongly projecting that the issue was linked with the sentiments of the people. Instead, he demanded that Haridwar and Rudrapur be restored to Uttar Pradesh.
Congress member Jaiprakash Agarwal welcomed the move and said it would fulfil the aspirations of the people of the state. MPs supporting the bill said people who were part of the agitation for a separate state had dubbed it Uttarakhand movement and it was only fair to rename the state to honour them.
BJP members sought to take credit for the bifurcation of Uttar Pradesh and maintained there was no real need to drop the original name.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said she had made the demand for the creation of Uttaranchal through a Private Member's resolution over a decade ago.
Sushma’s statement led to a verbal duel between her and Brinda Karat, who said she was confused as to why the BJP leader moved a private member’s resolution.
RS deputy chairman K Rahman Khan had to remind the two MPs that the fight was not between the two of them but over whether Uttaranchal be renamed.
Earlier, proceedings in the House were disrupted during Zero Hour after Congress members demanded to raise a matter concerning Gujarat which was contested by the BJP.
Despite Khan's appeal to allow SP member Amar Singh to speak, Santosh Bagrodia and Rashid Alvi of the Congress insisted on raising the other issue.