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As Rajya Sabha failed to take up the Telangana bill on Wednesday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded special status for Seemandhra for five years after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
There may be several more such attempts to break the deadlock in the House over the contentious bill with the UPA government expected to address some major concerns of the BJP related to Seemandhra.
However, the Congress’ troubles in the southern state seemed to be growing as its chief minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy, resigned on Wednesday, lashing out at the party for “dividing Telugus without a reason and flouting all parliamentary procedures to bring and pass the Telangana bill”. Referring to Tuesday’s passage of the bill in Lok Sabha amid a telecast blackout, he said in Hyderabad, “I am ashamed…They did it like thieves, cutting live telecast. What was the need to do like this?”
The Congress had been expecting Reddy, who has emerged as a champion of united Andhra, to resign any day.
The cabinet is now expected to take a call on Gandhi’s demand on Thursday that could pave the way for the bill’s passage in Rajya Sabha. Her intervention came after the BJP sought relief for Seemandhra (comprising coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) through a one-time grant of Rs. 10,000 crore and other concessions such as tax relief and national status for irrigation projects.
BJP moves to extract its pound of flesh
The BJP’s insistence on measures to make the bill palatable to the Seemandhra constituency came after it ensured its passage in Lok Sabha. “We will support the bill come what may. We want to extract the best possible deal for Seemandhra,” a top BJP leader told HT.
At a meeting with the prime minister, the BJP’s Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu questioned the legal validity of the Telangana bill, which gives ultimate powers to the governor in law and order matters relating to Hyderabad. The BJP has suggested this be done through a constitution amendment bill, an idea that has not found favour with the government.
“We will introduce the bill in Rajya Sabha at 12 noon Thursday,” minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla said. The BJP will move about two dozen-odd amendments but the government does not want to accept any of them, since it would require sending the bill to the lower house again. And with the 16 suspended Lok Sabha MPs back in the House on Friday, it would make it that much harder for the government to get an amended bill passed.
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Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has conveyed to the BJP that he will get back to them with a list of sops the government may announce for Seemandhra. Based on this, the opposition is expected to firm up its stand by Thursday morning.