Wednesday, February 19, 2014

BLACK DAY IN INDIAN DEMOCRACY



The Telangana Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in the midst of an unprecedented "din" in the house. For those waiting for the "dust" of T-storm to settle down after forty four years, there may be a surprise. The brazen and thoughtless manner in which the bill was prepared and  passed is sure to raise more dust. It may not settle soon. It will pass muster in Rajya Sabha and the President will sign. It is simple logic. What next?

The bill was passed under Article 3 of the Constitution.  The article states that

Parliament may by law

(a) form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State;

It, inter alia, states that "the Bill has been referred by the President to the Legislature of that State for expressing its views thereon within such period as may be specified in the reference...". It makes clear that President seeks only the opinion and not consent of the State Legislature. This gives unmitigated powers to the Central Government to tamper with borders of any state without even taking into account the views of the people there. Did the Constitution makers envisage such a situation as happened on the 18th February, 2014 in the Lok Sabha, where a state's re-organization bill was passed amid pandemonium, without taking into account views of the state legislature, suspending the whole lot of members of one region and blacking out the TV channel in order to see that the region affected did not see the ruckus? The answer is a firm "No". Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, Chief Architect of the Constitution said thus.

"But before condemning the Constitution for containing such overriding powers, certain considerations must be borne in mind. The first is that these overriding powers do not form the normal feature of the Constitution. Their use and operation are expressly confined to emergencies only”. (From JP's Blog)

He envisaged a situation where a dictatorial and self-serving leader takes advantage of this constitutional provision and abuses it. Hence, he said "Emergencies only". What is the emergency in 2014. It is the l debacle lurking on the face of Congress and its allies. Let us go back to the history of Telangana Movement.“The truth behind the “purportedly” sixty years of struggle for formation of Telangana State is at the best “a sweet lie” or “a sour truth”.” Though a few hardcore Telangana protagonists might feel aggravated, this is a fact of history as enunciated below. Most of the time, the struggle was confined to political maneuvering. They never made the ordinary man a partner in the struggle. He was used as an orange, peeled, the cover thrown out and politicians enjoyed the juice. The sequence of events since 1956 proves this point.

The state was ruled by CMS hailing from Congress from Rayalaseema for 5666 days, from TDP from Rayalaseema including NTR (who contested from Hidupur) for 5361 days. (Total 11027 days). CM s, all of whom are from Congress from Telangana ruled 3845 days and CM s from Coastal AP ruled 4098 days.  It is clear that the Congress CMs hailing from Telangana who ruled for considerable time never made any attempt to carve out Telangana, though the party was in power both in state and centre.

The 1st SRC recommended Telangana be kept as Hyderabad State and that after 1961 elections it could be merged if 2/3rd majority in Assembly favored it. What acted on the mind of the Government of the day is mired in mystery, but the recommendation was not considered and an integrated AP was formed with a Gentlemen agreement. In fact, Nehru in all wisdom expressed the view that it was a matrimonial agreement with a divorce clause if the parties cant live together. Even if the entire state speaks Telugu there is a lot of diversity between regions in culture and development. That settles the issue to a major extent. In 1969, at the end of the gentlemen agreement period, politicians in Telangana thought the provisions were not implemented in right spirit and what happened was a bloody agitation. In a book written by T.N.Kaul,ex- secretary of External Affairs and published in 1982 he mentioned that Indira Gandhi, in principle accepted formation of Telangana but was dissuaded  as the issue of Hyderabad was still in the UN and could not be taken up for consideration. In 1979 the Hyderabad case was closed by the UN. They could then have kept Hyderabad as a Union territory and divided the state. That did not happen as the demon of naxalism was purportedly hanging its sword there, more in Telangana. Agitating leaders of Congress were offered plum posts and the agitation was suppressed. Who did it? The Congress. 

In 1972 a “Jai Andhra Movement” was started in Coastal Andhra area against the upholding of the Mulki rules in Hyderabad area by SC. Surprisingly, Telangana leaders who spearheaded the separatist agitation in 1969 were silent on separation at that time, since they were enjoying power. Again leaders who led the agitation were again accommodated in plum posts. So, it is clear that the struggle for Telangana was confined to political leaders only and people of the region were exploited by only one party, the Congress, to gain political mileage. This also proves the agitation was not raging for sixty years continuously but spanned and panned out in two years only, in 1969 and 1973. During both the agitations hundreds lost their lives. It is a fact that no politician either from Telangana or Coastal Andhra raised the issue even mildly from then onward.

Moreover, during the 1969 agitation the properties belonging to NTR and Dr. C. Narayan Reddy were attacked by the agitators in view of a song in a Telugu film produced by the former and written by the latter. If the Telangana agitation was so seriously being waged continuously by people on ground, the groundswell of anger on NTR would never have died down. But TDP formed in 1983 received overwhelming support from Telangana so much so that even today the party boasts about cadre strength in Telangana and Rayalaseema. It is with open hands people of Telangana received NTR and continued supporting TDP. From this it is clear that people of Telangana were never involved in the clamour for a separate state after 1973 and even politicians never bothered about the issue till KCR came on the scene.

And why did KCR, who remained silent all the years he was in TDP and never spoke about Telangana pride or injustice meted out to the region suddenly realize that all was going wrong by living together, with their own cousins? All of it was because he was not offered a ministerial berth!  And did he take the agitation to its logical conclusion even when there were umpteen chances opened up to him during the past decade when he could have called the shots and got Telangana of his dreams? It is lure of power and be the boss of the region that tangled him.  

Now, that Congress is facing rout (even now it is inevitable) they struck a deal with KCR. The details of the secret deal will come out soon. The main aim of congress is to see that T-Bill was presented and if BJP agreed to pass it, to take credit and if BJP opposed, to throw blame on them. In view of the very strong winds blowing in its favour the BJP took a pragmatic decision of sailing with the wind. 

A lot of frustration and ire were shown on the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha that the interests of a region were sold out in view of her proximity to Sonia and so on and so forth. It is easy to believe so as it was a decision taken without revealing to the nation till last minute. Everyone was in for a shock. On careful analysis the decision seems to be far sighted. One reason that might have driven them to the decision might have been to see the issue was closed permanently and if any legal problems arose the blame naturally would go to Congress. And even if BJP opposed the bill, the blame would have been in their back yard.  After passing the bill also, Mr. Kamal Nath stated it exposed the BJP double standards. 

Now, let us go back to where we started, whether the bill is constitutionally valid. Article 3 of the constitution was already challenged in AP High Court. Then there is one more article, Andhra Pradesh specific. It is Article 371 D. It states, inter alia

371D. Special provisions with respect to the State of Andhra Pradesh.-
(1) The President may by order made with respect to the State of Andhra Pradesh provide, having regard to the requirements of the State as a whole, for equitable opportunities and facilities for the people belonging to different parts of the State, in the matter of public employment and in the matter of education, and different provisions may be made for various parts of the State.


This article is AP specific. Hence, any division in Andhra Pradesh State without annulling this article from the constitution would be "ultra vires" the constitution, many legal experts argue. Even the Attorney General and Law Ministry were said to have advised the government similarly, as per news reports. Even the leader of opposition suggested that constitution amendment was required but her plea fell on deaf ears. As there is nothing for the opposition to lose even if they voted for the bill. If, on one of these grounds the bill fails to stand legal scrutiny, Congress is in big trouble. If, on the other hand Supreme Court upholds the bill, it does not alter congress position any better as it is bound to be washed out in May,2014. 

All said and done the brazen manner the bill was bulldozed in the Lok Sabha left the world's largest bureaucracy bruised beyond repair. It gave a handle to any future rulers as selfish as the present one to pass bills that suit them without deliberating. It is like "fence eating the crop"


                                                            VANDE MATARAM


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This blog, written soon after the Bill on AP State Reorganization was passed is published now, as both SC and AP HC took cognizance of the petitions challenging the Bill. During the year 1969 the Bill passed by Parliament on Nationalisation of Banks was struck down by the SC as it violated Constitutional provisions. If, one of these courts stays operation of the bill till final verdict, as speculated by interested parties, the whole exercise goes into tailspin. The onus falls on the next government to make it foolproof. Hence, a strong government at the Centre is the need of the hour. The ball is people's court in as much much as it is in Legal Courts. The cases are coming up for preliminary hearing in 1st week of May, probably.