Cong, BJP Making Amends Over a Cup of T

Venkaiah, Jairam in back-channel talks; BJP for inclusion of aid to Seemandhra in financial memo; clarity to emerge next week

Published: 09th February 2014 09:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2014 09:40 AM   |  A+A-


Amidst ifs and buts over the fate of the Telangana bill in Parliament, which will be known next week, hectic backroom consultations are reportedly on between the two principal parties – Congress and BJP — on the way ahead even as Seemandhra leaders are pulling out all stops to prevent bifurcation, until polls.

D.PNGAfter the meeting of the Cabinet and the Congress Core Group on Friday, the task of liaising with the BJP is understood to have been entrusted to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh while the pointsman for the saffron party is its former president M Venkaiah Naidu.

According to sources, the Congress has exchanged with the BJP the amendments cleared by the Cabinet and wanted the latter to come up with suggestions, in writing, explaining against each of them whether it is “essential” or “non-essential.” This exercise is expected to be completed only by Monday which is why the idea of tabling the bill in the Rajya Sabha has been deferred to Wednesday from 10th as originally planned.

What is, however, certain is that until the chairpersons of both the Houses say “Yeas” have it, the last word is not said on the bill because serious doubts still exist on whether the Congress will be able to take its July 30 announcement to its logical conclusion. Among the various suggestions the BJP is insisting on is one pertaining to financial package for the residuary state.

The party is said to be insisting that the quantum of assistance and the period through which it would be given should form part of the financial memorandum attached to the bill. While a fiscal memorandum is not a must for introduction of a bill in the Rajya Sabha, it is mandatory in respect of legislations placed before the Lok  Sabha.

The one aspect that is clear now is that the bill that would be referred to the President is the one that was sent to the AP Assembly without any of the proposed amendments. If the amendments are inserted at this stage by the Union Cabinet, it becomes mandatory to refer it again to the Assembly. On the other hand, what has been suggested is that the Union Government propose the changes in the form of “official amendments” when the bill is brought before Parliament. This is because Parliament has the right to override the Assembly, a prerogative the Union Cabinet does not enjoy.

Lingering doubts about the passage of the bill arise mainly on account of political considerations weighing on the minds of the main parties with elections hardly three months away.

The BJP seems to be convinced that a pre-poll alliance with the TDP will make it a formidable combination in Seemandhra, particularly in the context of latest reports from the ground that the YSRC is slipping. If division is stopped on one ground or the other, a TDP-BJP combine could be almost unbeatable. As for Telangana, in the event of division not taking place, it will be a free-for-all — Congress can accuse BJP, TDP-BJP can attack the Congress for making a mess of the division process and the TRS will, of course, ride high on the sentiment. With a strong network and resources, TDP is confident of a fair show even in Telangana.

On his part, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy is said to have told the Congress high command it is not late even now.

His argument: In any case, elections will technically happen in a united Andhra Pradesh even if division happens because the appointed date cannot be immediate and the two states will come into being only later.

Therefore, let the new government take a call on the issue.

Having said this, Kiran Kumar Reddy reportedly claimed that the Congress would benefit substantially in andhra and Rayalaseema if the bill does not go through now.


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