Blacking out Lok Sabha TV for Telangana: Did the end justify the means?

A 'technical glitch' and the Bharatiya Janata Party complicity prevented India from witnessing the pandemonium in Lok Sabha that preceded the chaotic and controversial passage of Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill, for the creation of the country's 29th state: Telangana.

The debate still rages on whether Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar actually ordered the live transmission via Lok Sabha TV to be stopped or if it was a technical glitch that had deprived the country of being witness to proceedings. While the government has since gone on damage control mood over the alleged blackout, the controversy has also helped the Centre to somewhat shift the focus from the issue of bifurcating the state.

Victory at a cost. PTI

Victory at a cost. PTI

"The majority and minority will always be there when something has to pass. There were 350 plus MPs who wanted the Telangana bill to pass and the opposition forces were very few in numbers. And why is so much noise being about the live transmission? Eight years ago there was no live coverage. Does it mean Parliament didn't function or people did not speak? There were 200 correspondents were in the press gallery who were witness to what happened during the passage of the bill," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told CNN-IBN during a panel discussion on India at 9.

The Congress spokesperson defended the lack of broadcast saying that it wasn't a blackout but only one particular medium of broadcast had been affected by the technical glitch.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O' Brien contested that the bill had no problems in Lok Sabha as it had an overwhelming majority but questioned the manner in which it was passed.

"We wanted the standing and sitting method to get ourselves counted. But it was not permitted. The nation should have seen what went on inside Parliament. As Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said, today's episode was worse than the Emergency that the country saw 39 years ago.
Congress can't say pigs will fly and want people to believe it," Brien said.

Spelling out TMC's next course of action, he said, "We are meeting the President tomorrow. We want to tell him how the procedures were breached, give him a ball by ball account and urge him not to bring the bill to the Rajya Sabha. We are also willing to take along like minded parties with us."

However, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi MLA, KT Rama Rao argued that it hardly mattered whether the live feed from the Lok Sabha was available or not. He said the aim was to get the Telangana bill passed by the Lok Sabha and he was satisfied with it, no matter the means employed to achieve it.

"This bill enjoys absolute majority both from the ruling coalition and the opposition. The Seemandhra MPs are habitual opportunists and they have been continuously doing it (disrupting proceedings)," Rao said.

He pointed out that other states like Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were also cleared by Lok Sabha on voice votes and said the Telangana bill had been bulldozed in the Andhra Pradesh assembly.

"Even the Andhra Pradesh assembly did the same where the Telangana MLAs are in the minority. People have no problem if the TV channels did not receive their TRPs. The Speaker might have decided to stop the telecast to save some lives at the moment when emotions were high," Rao said.

However, lawyer G Venkatesh Rao, who took part in the discussion, said the bill that had been cleared by the Lok Sabha was unconstitutional.

"This bill is highly unconstitutional. This bill will not pass the judicial scrutiny. The 8th Chapter of the Srikrishna committee Report, which was submitted in a sealed cover, had cautioned the government not to create Telangana as it might lead to law and order problem," he said.

The lawyer said that the findings of the Srikrishna committee emerged only after the creation of the state was challenged in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

"Anybody who knows elementary law should challenge it in the courts," Venkatesh Rao said.

While the lawyer claimed the bill was unconstitutional, the Congress spokesperson said that no procedures had been violated.

"The judiciary can't intervene because all parliamentary procedures were followed. The Speaker can take decisions accordingly. There is complete immunity and parliamentary procedures cannot be challenged," Singhvi said. 

"It was a poll promise we kept. If you don't like us, vote against us. This issue was wide in the open," the Congress spokesperson said.

But he admitted that "every law has the risk of passing through a judicial scrutiny".

And while the principal opposition, the BJP, threw its weight behind the legislation, it has questioned the manner in which it was done and said that proceedings shouldn't have been blacked out.

"There is no question on the support of BJP to the Telangana bill. But we do not want the country to be blacked out of parliamentary proceedings. People have the right to witness whatever happens in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha whether the Houses are in bedlam or in order," BJP spokesperson Pinky Anand said.


Updated Date: Feb 19, 2014 08:46 AM

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