New Delhi: The GoM, set up to look into the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Tuesday could not finalise its report and the draft bill on Telangana and decided to meet again Wednesday before submitting them to the Union Cabinet.
The Group of Ministers, in its meeting today discussed issues related to providing special status to both the states under Article 371-D of the Constitution and believed to have examined a proposal to include two districts of Rayalseema in Telangana.
However, the process of finalising the report and the draft bill remained inconclusive.
"We will meet again tomorrow," Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters after the meeting, which was attended by Union Ministers AK Antony and P Chidambaram, among others. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde heads the GoM.
The Ministerial panel`s meeting was also attended by top officials, including National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami.
Shortly after the meeting of the GoM, a delegation of Union Ministers from Andhra Pradesh, including HRD Minister M Pallam Raju, who are opposed to the bifurcation of the state, made a presentation before Shinde opposing division of the state, as a last ditch effort to stall the process.
The GoM is expected to recommend that the draft Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill should be named as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Bill, thus avoiding an amendment in the Constitution but allowing both the states to enjoy special status, official sources said.
Article 371-D, which was inserted through 32nd Amendment in 1973, empowers the President to issue orders from time to time providing for equitable opportunities for people belonging to different parts of the state.
This provision, which has overriding effect on other Articles of the Constitution, was brought in following agreement on a six-point formula between leaders of the state on September 21, 1973.
This formula was aimed at a uniform approach for "accelerated development of the backward areas" of Andhra Pradesh, and to provide "equitable opportunities" to different areas of the state in the matter of education and employment in public services.
The proposal to reconstruct the boundaries of Telangana and include two districts of Rayalseema - Kurnool and Anantapur - as part of Telangana is believed to have been examined by the GoM. However, sources said, it is not clear whether a final decision has been taken by the ministerial panel on it.
If this proposal is accepted, the united Andhra Pradesh would be divided equally and both the states would get 21 Lok Sabha seats each, 147 seats each in the assembly and 45 seats in the legislative council.
Both Kurnool and Anantpur have proximity to Hyderabad and have a sizeable Muslim population.
However, the move is likely to be opposed by Telangana Rashtra Samiti and BJP, but may be supported by All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and some Andhra Pradesh Congress leaders.
Even though Shinde has declared that the draft Telangana bill would be introduced in Winter Session of Parliament, uncertainly prevails as giving time frame to Andhra Pradesh Assembly to consider the Bill rests with the President.
It is the prerogative of the President to give time to the state Assembly - minimum 10 days - to return the Bill to the Centre. However, the Assembly resolution is not binding under the Constitution.
Sources said the then united Madhya Pradesh Assembly was given 40 days by the then President to consider the state bifurcation bill when Chhattisgarh was carved out.
If the President gives more than 15 days to the state Assembly to consider the proposal, the Centre will not be in a position to table the bifurcation bill in the Winter Session, which comes to an end on December 20.
Sources said in that case, the possibility of convening a special session of Parliament cannot be ruled out.
They said the last meeting of the GoM will be held tomorrow to finalise the draft Bill.
The issue of Hyderabad continues to be contentious as Seemandhra leaders are demanding protection of lives and property of Seemandhra people settled in Hyderabad after the bifurcation.
One of the options, the GoM may suggest, is handing over law and order responsibility and revenue department to the central government under a special provision of the Constitution.
The GoM had held a series of meetings with leaders of eight political parties, Union ministers from Andhra Pradesh and Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and officials in the past one month.
During these meetings, opinion has been given on distribution of assets and other issues between the new state and the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh.
Once the Cabinet clears the proposal, it will go to the President who in turn will refer it to Andhra Pradesh Assembly for approval. However, the Assembly resolution is not binding under the Constitution.
The Union Cabinet then can consider the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill and with Union Cabinet`s approval, it will send it to the President before being tabled in Parliament.