Chief minister quits over vote to split Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh move just a bid to win votes, Kiran Kumar Reddy says with a 'heavy heart'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 3:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 11:17pm

The chief minister of an Indian state resigned yesterday in protest at a contentious bill to split his state in two, a plan that has triggered chaotic scenes in the federal parliament.

Kiran Kumar Reddy announced he was stepping down "with heavy heart" as chief of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh and from the ruling Congress party over the bill to create the country's 29th state.

The bill was expected to be introduced into parliament's upper house yesterday to carve the new state called Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, after a decades-long campaign.

Reddy's move came one day after uproar during a vote on the bill in the lower house that saw a blackout of live televised proceedings, amid fears opposing MPs would spark mayhem.

Reddy slammed as shameful lawmakers' behaviour in pushing through the bill in the lower house without proper debate, and also attacked the decision to cut the live TV feed.

MPs were "robbers, hiding from people, putting off TV, throwing out those who were objecting", Reddy was quoted as saying in the state capital, Hyderabad.

He accused Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of supporting the bill to win votes in the general election due by the end of May.

Critics say the Congress-led government has decided to move on Telangana before the polls to try to win crucial support in the tribal and drought-prone districts that will form the new state.

But they warn the move may backfire amid an intensifying political battle in Andhra Pradesh, where Reddy is now expected to form his own party.

Supporters have campaigned for 53 years for economically deprived Telangana, which they say has been neglected by successive state governments. Wealthier coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh have fiercely opposed the split because they say it would create economic upheaval.

Hyderabad, an IT hub home to giants Google, Microsoft and Dell, will serve as joint capital for at least the next 10 years.

The intensity of the anger over Telangana was apparent in parliament in New Delhi last week when the bill was introduced.

Some 17 MPs were suspended over mayhem that saw legislators opposed to Telangana trying to pull out the speaker's microphone, smashing a glass table and ripping up papers. One MP unleashed a can of pepperspray, prompting a rush for the exit.

On Tuesday, the TV broadcast of proceedings was suddenly halted just before the vote.

"They say that the blackout was due to a technical glitch. No. It was a tactical glitch," the BJP leader in the lower house, Sushma, Swaraj said.