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BJP keeps UPA on tenterhooks over Telangana Bill

Party bringing in several amendments to bill in upper house; Manmohan-Jaitley meeting makes little headway

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s attempts at getting the controversial Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014, passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday faced hurdles as the Bharatiya Janata Party insisted on bringing several amendments to the Bill in the Upper House.

A meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, reportedly did not make much headway. More meetings are likely to resolve the impasse.

The Upper House witnessed noisy scenes on Wednesday with protesting members heckling even Secretary-General Shumsher K Sheriff.

The UPA is keen to get the Bill cleared in the upper house with elections looming ahead, leaving the government with a narrow window of two days before the session ends. AP chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy today resigned and quit the Congress party as well.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had yesterday itself, soon after the bill was passed by voice vote in the Lok Sabha publicly stated that the BJP would be bringing in amendments to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2014, when it is tabled in the upper house.

The BJP is now demanding a constitutional amendment to empower a common governor to be custodian of security for ten years of the two states, as has been envisaged in the bill. Congress sources disclosed that senior BJP leader Venkiah Naidu is also insistent on pushing through several amendments regarding the common capital in Hyderabad and on issues pertaining to several existing projects and institutions in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile Congress President Sonia Gandhi has urged the government to grant ‘special category’ status to the Seemandhra region , for five years to cater to its developmental needs.

Congress’ Rajeev Shukla speaking later to reporters was optimistic about the bill. “We will place the Telangana Bill in Rajya Sabha tomorrow.”

However sources disclosed that despite the house being adjourned several times throughout the afternoon the bill could not be taken up as the government was holding several rounds of meeting with BJP leaders. PM Manmohan Singh reached out to senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu to break the impasse. Union ministers Jairam Ramesh and Kamal Nath also met up with Sushma Swaraj and Venkiah Naidu.

The government is reluctant to incorporate these amendments at this last stage as the bill would have to be sent back to the lower house again after clearing the Rajya Sabha. Despite the house meeting at again at 5 pm, the bill was not taken up for discussion.

For the beleaguered Congress, the creation of a separate state of Telangana before the polls was a desperate attempt to reap electoral dividends and hopefully bag the 17 seats in the Telangana region.

The Congress has also been hoping to firm up an alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) now that it had made good its promise on setting up the news state. Asked about the prospects of an alliance, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, “All options are open to Congress. All options will be examined. Final decision will be intimated when such a decision is taken.”

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First Published: Thu, February 20 2014. 00:07 IST