Parliament passes Telangana bill

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) Parliament Thursday gave its approval to carve out Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh as India's 29th state, with the Rajya Sabha passing the bill for creation of the new state by a voice vote amid bedlam.

Intervening in the debate on the bill, which was marked by several adjournments and slogan shouting by members opposed to the creation of the new state, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to reach out to Seemandhra, announcing a special package for the region.

Members of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the DMK staged a walkout before the bill was passed, while the Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party were among the parties that opposed the bill.

Seemandhra members belonging to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) raised slogans of "Save Andhra Pradesh, Save Democracy" near the chairman's podium during the debate.

Manmohan Singh, who had a protective ring of Congress members around him as he spoke, assured that special status will be given for five years to Seemandhra region - the residual state of Andhra Pradesh following creation of a separate Telangana.

"For purposes of central assistance, special category status will be extended to the successor state of Andhra Pradesh comprising 13 districts, including the four districts of Rayalaseema and the three districts of north coastal Andhra for a period of five years. This will put the state's finances on a firmer footing," he said.

However, the prime minister's speech was not audible amid the din in the house.

Before the passage of the bill, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said there was need to amend the constitution on proposal of powers given to the governor concerning law and order. However, the government did not agree to his suggestion.

Jaitley said the process of creating Telangana should be "legally correct".

"Law and order belongs to state. Governor is a representative of the central government. Can you do so (give him the powers of law and order) without amending the constitution?" he asked.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal, however, said the governor will act on the advice of the state cabinet, adding that "the time to pass Telangana bill has come".

The debate saw members from Seemandhra raising an emotional pitch, with TDP member Y.S. Chowdhary saying it was "manipulative management and vote bank politics of Congress".

Tourism Minister K.Chiranjeevi said he was speaking on behalf of all Telugu-speaking people against his own government's decision to divide Andhra Pradesh.

"It is very painful. The process to divide the state is very unfortunate," he said.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral went ahead to say bifurcation of Punjab led to rise of terrorism in the state and warned of similar consequences in Andhra Pradesh.

After the bill was passed, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath expressed his happiness, saying that there was demand for Telangana state for almost 60 years.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the bill was passed with support of several parties.