New Delhi: The contentious Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013 (Telangana Bill) was on Tuesday bulldozed through the Lok Sabha amidst dramatic scenes with Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party joining hands to ensure its passage. Speaker Meira Kumar stopped the live telecast of the proceedings in Lok Sabha when the Bill was taken up after MPs demanding united Andhra protested in Parliament. The unprecedented move of blackout as the government played safe fearing Seemandhra MPs will go to any extent to lodge their protest and disrupt the proceedings was seen by many MPs as “murder of democracy”. But Lok Sabha TV issued a statement saying that the blackout was a result of technical glitch.
Staunch opponent of Telangana, YSR Congress chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy called it a black day in the history of the country and appealed for bandh in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday. “It’s a black day for Indian democracy,” said Reddy after Lok Sabha cleared the Bill by a voice vote.
The government was of the view that enough had been done to hammer out a consensus and nothing else could have been done. “These things have happened in the past as well,” said Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.
The passage of the Bill in the House was not easy. Almost 40 MPs from BJD, Shiv Sena, CPM, AIADMK including Union ministers Chiranjeevi and KS Rao protested in the well of the House.
Before the Bill was taken up, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh met top brass of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in LK Advani’s chamber. The BJP, in that meet, clearly said that it is not in favour of the Bill being passed in a din, and will support it only if the Seemandhra region was to be adequately compensated.
It was at 3 pm, when the live telecast of the proceedings was stopped.
Though the Lok Sabha TV officials rushed in to save the Congress, the government’s own ministers seems confused. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla advocated that the stalling of live telecast of proceedings in House was normal and depended entirely on the Speaker.
“Whenever there is a ruckus in Parliament than the chair takes a call to stop the telecast. But the media galary was open and nothing was done in close door,” said Shukla. It was echoed by the LS TV in its statement. “The press was present in full strength in the press gallery at all times to witness and report how the events unfolded.”
“The proceedings of the Lok Sabha could not be telecast live by Lok Sabha Television due to technical problems when the House assembled at 15-00 hrs on 18th February, 2014,” it said.
Sensing an opportunity, the BJP – which voted for the Bill with the government, was quick to hit out at the government. Sushma Swaraj called the blackout a ‘ ‘tactical glitch’.
“They say that the blackout of Lok Sabha was due to a ‘technical glitch’. No. It was a tactical glitch,” Sushma tweeted.
She condemned the blackout and shifted all blame to Congress for this. “We strongly condemn the black out of the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. It was done without our knowledge,” she wrote in her microblogging site.
“I am sorry to inform that Lok Sabha Sectt is not providing us the audio or video recording of my today’s speech on Telangana Bill,”she added.
TDP too hit out at the government. “The Lok Sabha Speaker is behaving like the Election Commission,” said TDP MP YS Chaudhary.
Meanwhile, questions are now being raised that what will happen when the Bill will be taken at the Rajya Sabha. With the pepper spray and blackout incidents, it’s to be seen if the Upper House be able to undo the blot created by the Lok Sabha where the Bill will be taken up on Thursday.
In fact 62 amendments were brought in on Tuesday but only 32 amendments by the government were accepted, rest were defeated. The amendment to make Hyderabad the capital of Telangana moved by AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi was also defeated by voice vote.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who was in favour of united state, will resign on Wednesday morning. He will hold a press conference at 10. 30 after which he will gove his resignation to Governor. Sources have said that he will float his own party.