Sushilkumar Shinde’s all-party meet on Telangana a hoax?

By: A Srinivasa Rao

The all-party meeting conducted by Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde at North Block in New Delhi on December 28 supposedly to find out a solution to the contentious Telangana statehood issue was just a hoax, if one were to go by the reply give by the officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to a Right to Information query.

Former MP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi politburo member B Vinod Kumar on Thursday lodged a complaint with the Central Information Commission (CIC) stating that the MHA officials had given an irresponsible reply to his query posted to them in January 2013 under Right to Information Act. The former MP sought details of the minutes of the meeting held by Shinde with representatives of eight political parties on December 28 and copies of the letters submitted by them to the union minister during the meeting spelling out their stand on the Telangana statehood demand.

“The reply given by Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the MHA and Director (CS-II) Ashutosh Jain was surprising. It was just one liner, saying the requested information was not available. I went for an appeal on the same and Joint Secretary S Suresh Kumar, who was the appellant authority, also gave a similar reply,” Vinod Kumar said.

The TRS leaders wondered whether the meeting convened by the Union Home Minister was a serious affair or just an informal one. “The replies given by the MHA officials to the RTI queries were irresponsible and against the spirit of the RTI Act,” he said.

It may be recalled that Shinde had convened a meeting of eight recognised political parties in Andhra Pradesh on December 28 to discuss the Telangana issue. He had invited two representatives from each political party, besides Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy for the meeting. The MHA also issued an official statement on the same day stating that the participants had expressed the opinion that a decision should be taken by the Central Government at the earliest. It further said, quoting Shinde that a decision on Telangana would be taken within a period of one month.

However, the UPA Government could not make any announcement on the Telangana issue before January 28 as promised, apparently under pressure from the anti-Telangana forces within the Congress party. While AICC in-charge of Andhra affairs brushed aside the Telangana issue saying that there were no deadlines for taking a decision on the statehood issue, Shinde said further consultations were needed before taking a decision. Thus, the Centre more or less shelved the decision on the Telangana issue.

“Now, the entire exercise of holding an all-party meeting by Shinde on the Telangana issue appears to be a big hoax. It was pretty evident that Shinde had held the meeting under pressure from the Telangana Congress MPs, who had threatened to boycott the Parliament session during voting on the Foreign Direct Investment in the first week of December if the Centre did not make further moves on Telangana. The Congress high command could appease the Telangana MPs with the meeting, which has now been proved a non-serious affair,” another senior TRS leader Raghunandan Rao said.

He wondered how the MHA authorities could say that they had no information about an official meeting called by the union minister. “It was K Skandan, additional secretary in the MHA, who had written official letters to all the political parties asking them to send their representatives to the December 28 meeting. The entire proceedings were recorded and the Home Minister had received letters from the political party representatives. How can the MHA officials say that they had no records about the meeting?” Rao asked.

He said the minutes of the meeting were not part of any classified information. “Assuming that the MHA does not want to reveal the same, it should say that it was not possible to reveal the information in view of the sensitivity of the Telangana issue. But how can they say that the minutes were not available?” he asked.

Interestingly, the MHA gave similar replies to another RTI query by a Hyderabad-based activist D Rakesh Kumar in February. He filed the RTI application with the MHA on December 29, a day after the all-party meeting, seeking information about the meeting, copies of all letters, representations and documents submitted by the representatives of eight political parties and the video-recording of the proceedings.

The MHA took about one-and-a-half month to respond, saying the required information was not available. “Did Shinde call for the meeting in his personal capacity? Why were the ministry officials present at the meeting then? And why were the minutes noted? It clearly shows the non-seriousness of the Centre in resolving the Telangana issue,” Rakesh said.
Courtesy: India Today

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