Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Is it back to square one?

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference:

After more than 125 days’ wait, the UPA Government led by Sonia Gandhi, finally got ready with a draft Bill for Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation. I am writing this article at a time when the bill is yet to be uploaded on the internet. Though, some media houses and politicians have shown us a bound copy of the report. So, we have no idea of the finer details in the bill.
Large sections of the Telugu media have printed many excerpts from the report. If we are to go by those, there is hardly anything to gloat about getting the much needed clarity. There is definitely better clarity than before – but the benchmark for clarity was so low that we are just relieved that “something is better than nothing”!
We still don’t know which city is going to be the next capital city of Andhra Pradesh. The GoM has graciously agreed to constitute an expert committee to decide on this within 45 days. According to news reports, the 45 day deadline will come into force after the Bill is passed in Parliament. Really weird!  But, it is futile to expect anything better from Sonia’s UPA.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and many other leaders have put forward specific and probing questions on the water sharing arrangements. The GoM merely said that a mechanism will be instituted wherein the central Government will make sure that no injustice is done. The contours of this mechanism are not clear yet – and more importantly, so far we do not know if the specific issues raised by the Chief Minister have even been mentioned in the report!
The GoM has laid out broad guidelines on the distribution of assets, the distribution of employees, the splitting up of regions under various electricity zones, law and order in Hyderabad etc. These guidelines give us better clarity than before, but trouble lies when the Government has to get down to the nitty-gritty of implementing this. That is the key to the whole process.
On the education front, the news out is totally confusing. Apparently, the recommendation is to continue the common entrance tests for both the States under one umbrella, for five years! How this proposal will work is beyond my understanding. Hopefully, once the bill is out, we will probably be wiser than we were before. The GoM has said that premier education institutes (like IIT, IIM) will be setup in Seemandhra, but as of now no one is enthused by this proposal.
So, what’s next?
There is a widespread resentment (foremost amongst Congress MLAs) that such an important item was merely tabled as a “table item”. Table item means that the Cabinet ministers will get to read the bill only at the meeting, and not prior to that. Ministers from Andhra Pradesh were deeply upset that they were not even given time to read the report and react to it. News reports indicated that P Chidambaram told them, “Even they are being given two days’ time. The report will be accepted as it is. So, why bother with time?” If true, it is distressing to note the casual and arrogant attitude of the GoM!
However, the most important event will be the discussion in the Assembly. Massive scheming is going on, led by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress MLAs themselves, to defeat every single proposal in the Assembly. It is 100 per cent sure that there will not be a single resolution from the Assembly. The debate will be heated beyond par and it will also be lengthy. In the other cases, the State Assemblies were given a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of 69 days to respond. So, there is a speculation about what the President, Pranab Mukherjee will do. 20 days is a ridiculous time frame to be given to the Andhra Pradesh assembly. But, with Congress you never know!
The vote in the Assembly will not matter even a bit to Sonia Gandhi. However, the scheming is on, to stress on how the State can be split under such a venomous atmosphere. Reports are also indicating that the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister might even resign on the floor of the house to perpetuate a constitutional crisis.
The TRS President is also unhappy with many provisions in the Bill for the State’s bifurcation. He announced yesterday that they will respond in detail soon. He asked people to withhold celebrations till the Bill is passed by Parliament. Sushil Kumar Shinde continues to lie that they want to bring the Bill in winter session only. But what better to expect from this man?
Bandhs and protests are back to haunt the residents of Seemandhra now. After lying low for about a month, these protests are again going to pick up steam within no time. Union Minister Chiranjeevi has urged Sonia Gandhi to ensure that the Prime Minister accepts his resignation. The next one month will be the most crucial days in this process. Primarily because of the Assembly discussions, this session promises to be the most virulent session ever in Andhra Pradesh’s history.
Unless Sonia decides to give the assembly lesser than 20 days’ time, we are in for a sad, dreadful and long battle in which no one will emerge as a winner.
Tailpiece: Last week, NDTV flashed saying Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi approved Rayala-Telangana. All local media outlets also reported the same. Prominent leader from the Ananthapur region, JC Diwakar Reddy had called Sonia Gandhi as “Goddess”. Wonder what his reaction will be now!


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