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PM Pleads with BJP after His MPs, Mantris 'Bleed his Heart'

Its fate hanging in balance, T Bill to be tabled in LS today; saffron party gives hope to UPA govt after lunch with Singh; T & Seemandhra MPs, Ministers nearly come to blows in Parliament

Published: 13th February 2014 08:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th February 2014 08:42 AM   |  A+A-

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“Please cooperate in the passage of bills including one meant to create a Telangana state” — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Of course, we want to cooperate. When did we say we are against bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh? In fact, we are not interested in talking about anything else other than bifurcation. But, first, please set your house in order” — top leaders of the BJP.

This was how the discourse over lunch went on between the Prime Minister, some of his Cabinet colleagues and the four leaders of the BJP, LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, after Parliament was adjourned Wednesday. Apart from reiterating their demand for justice to Seemandhra, the other thing the BJP leaders reportedly demanded was order in the House — something that looks highly improbable in the current scenario. With the government itself planning to move more than 30 amendments, the BJP insisted that the Telangana bill be discussed for a reasonable length of time in the House before it could be passed by a voice vote if required.

With its MPs and Union Ministers from Seemandhra unwilling to budge and regional parties like the SP also causing trouble, whether the UPA can manage a debate is a million dollar question.

The luncheon meeting at the end of the day could be read whichever way one wants to: the two principal parties have come to an agreement or that they have not. According to sources privy to what transpired at the meeting as the leaders savoured their lunch, the Congress did appear desperate to get at least the Telangana bill through, if not the other bills touted as Rahul Gandhi’s brainwaves.

The BJP leaders obviously did not want to lose the opportunity to taunt the Congress. “If the MPs were disrupting the House all this while, Union Ministers too joined them today. Why are you all the time seeking our support instead of making sure that your own representatives are on board?” was one of the BJP leaders’ stinging remark.

After the meeting, however, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath claimed the BJP had offered unconditional and total support to the Telangana bill though speculation, fuelled by Seemandhra leaders, went on throughout the day that it was actually not the case. Then, was it conditional? Not exactly, BJP leaders told Express.

According to a senior BJP leader, among other things, the party insisted that the drought-prone Rayalaseema region be taken care of adequately so that it does not suffer post-bifurcation of the State. Likewise, they wanted the concerns of Andhra to be addressed, at least to the extent possible, by indicating the quantum of financial assistance and specific projects that would be taken up in the residuary state.

There were also indications that there has been a change in the thinking within the saffron party that it would not be wise to allow the Telangana issue to boil further and closure should be given before the elections itself. In other words, the BJP is not too keen on carrying forward the Telangana baggage after the elections, something that parties like the TDP, planning to ally with it, are reportedly seeking.

Though there was no official word yet on when the bill would be introduced in the Lok Sabha, BJP leaders suspect the government could do it Thursday itself. Telangana protagonists declared after the Prime Minister’s luncheon diplomacy that they are certain that the BJP is on board insofar as Telangana bill is concerned. United AP campers are, nonetheless, still hopeful that the “suggestions” made by the BJP are, in fact, “riders” for its cooperation and, therefore, the bill may not go through Parliament.

However, one theory doing the rounds is that in the end, if the Congress and the BJP find common ground, closure could be accorded to the vexed issue by a voice vote — a Brahmastra in a different form. For now though, the suspense continues. 



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