PM's lunch diplomacy misses target

T-mess: Create state, but don't ignore Seemandhra, says BJP

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s lunch diplomacy appears to have failed to cut ice with the BJP, with the opposition party reiterating that it was in favour of creation of Telangana, but the Centre could not ignore demands of the residual Andhra Pradesh.

Singh invited BJP leaders L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley over lunch on Wednesday at 7, Race Course Road. Union Ministers A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde and Kamal Nath were also present.

Singh is said to have sought the BJP top brass’ cooperation in passing bills in the current Parliament session.

The BJP leaders advised Singh to set both Houses in order, as four of the six agitating Union ministers – K S Rao, D Purandeshwari, K Suryaprakash Reddy and Chiranjeevi – trooped to the well, tore rail budget papers and even took away pen and official papers from Lok Sabha secretary general S Bal Sekhar.

Sources said the government told them about a package earmarked for the Seemandhra region.

The BJP, which intended to move amendments to the bill, considers Hyderabad to be the most contentious issue. The city generates revenue and has assets worth Rs 14,000 crore. Hyderabad is proposed to be the joint capital post the bifurcation.

There continues to be a suspense over tabling of the bill in the Lok Sabha. Even the BJP leaders were not informed about it.

The Law Ministry had told the Lok Sabha that constitutional amendment was not necessary for creation of Telangana and the bill could be passed by a simple majority.

The ministry said Article 4 (2) stated that “no such law as aforesaid shall be deemed to be an amendment of this Constitution for the purposes of Article 368”, which deals with constitutional amendments.

The government was also using this argument to assert that constitutional amendment was needed to entrust the governor with law and order responsibilities. In Union Territories, the lieutenant governors were responsible for law and order, but it could not happen in a state, some political parties contended.

The government will introduce 32 amendments to the bill. The Centre, however, did not get much assurance from the BJP on other anti-corruption legislations it wanted to introduce in this session.

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