Drowning out reason

That the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013, to create a new state of Telangana would force a sharp regional divide in the Assembly and the Legislative Council was predictable and understandable. But nothing could reasonably have explained the din and disturbance in the two Houses after the Bill to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh was introduced on the recommendation of the President. The very purpose of the section under Article 3 of the Constitution that mandates a reference to the State is to allow the legislature of the State whose boundaries are being redrawn to express its views on the issue. But instead of a debate, the Houses have only witnessed uproar, with some members tearing up copies of the Bill and some others burning copies. By not allowing a discussion, members belonging to the Seemandhra region who are votaries of a united Andhra Pradesh did their own case no favour. The surest way of making their views heard would be to participate in the discussion on the Bill, and to vote against it — not to prevent any discussion on it. If anti-Telangana members are convinced that they have the numbers to prevent the passage of a resolution approving the Bill, as they claim, then they should not shy away from a debate. Other than making a political point, nothing is to be gained by turning the Assembly and the Council into forums for protest. The place for agitations and protest rallies are outside, on the streets; the legislature is the place for reasoned arguments and purposive voting.

Of course, one reason why the members who are against the Bill want to make just noise without debating and voting against it is that they see a vote against the Bill as having no more than symbolic value. While a Bill on the formation of new states has to necessarily be referred to the legislature of the State whose area or boundary is affected by the Bill, the vote of the legislature is not binding on Parliament. Even so, a vote against the Bill would give those opposed to the creation of Telangana greater moral authority and confidence to carry forward their agitation. Surely, a decisive vote against the Bill after a reasoned debate would better serve the cause of those who stand for a united Andhra Pradesh than a prolonged and unproductive session without any decision on the Bill. The Centre too would be informed of the sense of the House before pushing through a constitutional amendment to facilitate the creation of Telangana. The introduction of the Bill should be an opportunity for pause and reflection, and reasoned and frank debate. Both those who are for the Bill and those who are against it should not allow reason to be drowned out by the din.

(The Hindu Editorial)


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