In his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Telangana was created with the Parliament doors closed, without any discussion and pepper spray put to use.” This coming from a Prime Minister whose government has been getting Bills passed without any pretention of discussion is strange.
Ironically, he said there was no discussion in Parliament when Chairman Venkaiah Naidu was in his chair in Rajya Sabha. It was Venkaiah Naidu who stalled discussion for several hours to bargain on behalf of Andhra Pradesh. He wanted the special status for ten years and not just five years. He was heard shouting ‘ten years…ten years…five years are not enough’ non-stop till the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, got up and assured him that he would consider it. Venkaiah Naidu was the most visible face and vocal voice in Rajya Sabha during the prolonged debate. In fact, he was the only leader who was fighting for benifits for AP. He insisted on Polavaram project being considered as a national project which should be constructed by the Centre. Modi, as part of election campaign, said at the feet of Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati and in the presence of Venkaiah Naidu and Chandrababu Naidu that if voted to power he would grant special status to Andhra Pradesh. It was the same Modi who denied the special status to the State and who has been niggardly in releasing funds to Polavaram. It was again Modi’s government which entrusted the job of construction of Polaravam to the State Government headed by N. Chandrababu Naidu. Even though the YSRCP Government has been friendly with Modi’s dispensation, Polarvaram remains where it was three years ago. One can understand the silence on the part of Venkaiah Naidu since he is Vice President and cannot involve in political decisions. However, he must have squirmed in his chair while the Prime Minister referred to Telangana.
Also read: Rahul rattles Modi for the first time
The PM’s statement on Telangana, which has nothing to do with President’s speech, was criticized by many leaders and intellectuals in Telangana. For more than seven years, Modi’s government did little to help Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State to resolve their differences. Most of the issues mentioned in Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act remain unresolved thanks to inaction on part of the Union Government. People of Telangana were shocked when Modi raised this bogey for the second time. Though he was addressing the Parliament his message was meant for people of the five States where assembly elections are in progress. Castigating the Congress is an electoral need for him.
Modi forgot BJP supported AP bifurcation
Modi conveniently forgot that BJP was a party to the decision of bifurcation. It supported UPA government when the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill, 2014, was finally passed in Rajya Sabha. It is true that all the leaders in the BJP were not in favour of bifurcations. Some had their reservations. When Advani was seen disinclined and Kamal Nath’s attempt to rope him in failed, the then Union minister S Jaipal Reddy approached Sushma Swaraj, then external affairs minister. When Reddy was about to get up from his seat and walk to Sushma, she went to him herself. When Reddy expression apprehension at Advani’s attitude Shushma told him, “I am the leader of Opposition. Not Advaniji. Don’t worry about it. You introduce the Bill and we will support it.” This was promptly conveyed by Reddy to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Reddy himself told me about this episode.
Late Sushma Swaraj was keen on implementing the BJP resolution passed at Kakinada conclave. She famously said at Karimnagar meeting, “If you call Sonia Gandhi ‘Amma’ because she is giving you the State, please call me ‘Chinnamma’ since I am supporting the cause.”
Finally, Modi spoke of pepper spray. Who was the person that used pepper spray? He was an integrationist. All the MPs who were in favour of separate statehood were praying that the process should go on peacefully. Those who were for integration tried to obstruct the proceedings in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. If pepper spray was used in Lok Sabha, some members belonging to both the Congress and the TDP created ruckus by all means in Rajya Sabha. One important Congress Member stood for hours holding a placard that the State should be kept united.
Debate was unending
Vundavalli Arun Kumar, the then Congress MP, filed a petition in the court and published a book saying that the Bill was not properly passed since there was no voting. There was no way of knowing whether majority members supported the Bill since he and some other members were suspended and the doors were closed and lights were put off when the Bill was passed. The contention of the two-term Lok Sabha Member from Rajamahendravaram is that the AP Reorganization Bill, 2014, is yet to be passed by Parliament.
In spite of that, it is wrong to say that there was no debate in Parliament. There was a lot of debate inside as well as outside the legislatures. I organized a programme, ‘Andhra Pradesh Dasha-Disha,’ for seven months on every Sunday at some district headquarter or the other all over united Andhra Pradesh. The informal debate, in fact, started right at the time Andhra State and Hyderabad were merged and it continued in phases over the year of the existence of united Andhra Pradesh. It reached its climax in 2009-13 after the demise of YS Rajasekhar Reddy. A spate of suicides by students and youth of Telangana in hundreds for the cause of a separate statehood forced Sonia Gandhi to concede the demand.
To dwell now on a decision taken long ago is uncalled for. Instead of helping Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State to resolve issues, declaring on the floor of Parliament that the two States are quarreling among themselves would not help matters beside belittling the States. Modi’s government which was supposed to settle the issue of sharing water in Krishna and Godavari rivers chose to take over the rivers and the projects without bothering to appoint a new tribunal as demanded by Telangana government. The fact that the prolonged movement for separate statehood was based on three basic issues – water, funds and employment- is lost sight of. In united Andhra Pradesh, Telangana could not represent its case of injustice in water sharing as it was only a sub-region in the State of Andhra Pradesh. Only States could complain to the Tribunal. Seven years have passed after achieving the statehood, but Brijesh Kumar Tribunal refuses to consider Telangana State as one of the four riparian States and decrees that both AP and TS have to share among them the water allocated to united AP by Bachawat Tribunal decades ago. Blaming the Congress which had lost two elections after 2014 and Narendra Modi took over the reins and not doing anything to resolve the problems faced by the two Telugu States on account of bifurcation is unjust and unkind on the part of the prime minister, to say the least.
Also read: KCR’s attack on PM in bad taste