More Telangana lawmakers quit; Cong for dialogue
The political crisis in AP deepened as four more parliamentarians and 18 legislators from Telangana resigned.
New Delhi/Hyderabad: The political crisis in Andhra Pradesh deepened Tuesday as four more parliamentarians and 18 legislators from Telangana resigned and a 48-hour shutdown paralysed the region. A rattled Congress leadership began talks with its state leaders and also indicated it was ready to start a dialogue with others to end the impasse.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also in charge of the party`s affairs in Andhra Pradesh, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P. Chidambaram and conveyed to them the sentiments of agitating legislators, whom he met earlier.
Azad said he has conveyed to Gandhi and the Congress leaders that the legislators want the Congress party to start an early dialogue that results in the creation of a separate Telangana state and an end to the stalemate in Andhra Pradesh.
Members of parliament from both the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) submitted their resignations Tuesday to mount pressure on the central government.
TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao and his colleague Vijayashanti faxed their resignations to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar while TDP MPs N. Nageswar Rao and Ramesh Rathore submitted their resignations to the speaker in New Delhi.
With this, the number of MPs who have resigned since Monday has gone up to 14. In Hyderabad, 18 more members of the state assembly, including a minister, also submitted their resignations to the assembly speaker.
All 11 members of the assembly belonging to the TRS, all four of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and both members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also quit, taking the total number of legislators who have quit to 99.
Telangana accounts for 119 of the 294 members of the assembly and 17 out of 42 Lok Sabha members from Andhra Pradesh.
The members of assembly who have resigned include 40 of the ruling Congress party, all 37 of the TDP, both members of the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), and three associate members of the Congress.
A total of 81 members of the state assembly, including 11 ministers, submitted their resignations Monday.
Groups fighting for separate Telangana state have stepped up pressure on MPs and legislators who have not yet resigned.
Describing them as "traitors", Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), the TRS, the BJP and other groups laid siege to the houses of MPs, including Union Petroleum Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, and state legislators who are yet to resign.
As the Telangana movement intensifies with mass resignations and the general strike, the Congress leadership in Delhi began talks with a group of state ministers and MPs to find a way out.
Azad held a meeting with state leaders who wanted the process for formation of separate state to be initiated immediately in line with the Dec 9, 2009, statement of the central government.
Explaining the circumstances under which they had to take the drastic step, the state leaders made it clear that it was not possible for them to go back on it without a clear commitment from the government.
Azad later told reporters that legislators told him that the resignations did not mean they have closed doors for discussions.
"They told me that since the Centre did not take any decision, they were under pressure from people to resign. They are ready for dialogue," Azad said.
When asked whether the resignations would be accepted, he said since the legislative assembly and parliament are independent bodies, "we have no say on this." The minister, however, added that the Telangana issue was not a "time-bound" one.
Speaking to a television channel, Azad said an all-party meeting on the Telangana issue needs to be preceded by talks with people of different regions of Andhra Pradesh and political parties.
"We won`t jump straightaway to all-party meeting, we will have to first talk to people of Andhra Pradesh and people of other political parties and different regions," he said.
He said that those agitating for a separate Telangana want some process to start and "this is the time we have to take a decision on this issue".
Sonia Gandhi`s political secretary Ahmed Patel and Jaipal Reddy also held a meeting with Telangana MPs and other leaders in the evening.
Meanwhile, a 48-hour shutdown called by the JAC crippled Telangana on the first day. The shutdown, which was total in Hyderabad and nine other districts of Telangana, was peaceful barring minor incidents.
Bus transport was paralysed while shops, business establishments and educational institutions were closed to press the central government to table a bill in parliament to carve out a separate state of Telangana.
The situation turned violent at Osmania University in Hyderabad as some students clashed with the police while trying to take out a rally from the campus. The protestors pelted stones while the police retaliated with baton and teargas shells.
The pitched battles between police and students on the campus continued till late in the evening. The students damaged a police vehicle.
Police also arrested TDP and TRS leaders when they were heading towards the university campus.
TDP legislators were also arrested at Gun Park in front of the assembly building when they tried to stage a protest in violation of ban on any gathering of four or more people in the city.
Hyderabad Police Commissioner A.K. Khan told reporters that the situation in Hyderabad remained peaceful. He said 31 companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed in the city. "If necessary, we will deploy more central forces," he said.