Telangana division comes at a very crucial time

Updated 20 February 2014
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Telangana division comes at a very crucial time

India approved a plan to create a 29th state with the Rajya Sabha passing the historic AP Reorganization Bill, 2013, by voice vote amid an unprecedented 10 adjournments following pandemonium on Thursday.
All that is required now for the division of Andhra Pradesh is the formality of President Pranab Mukherjee putting his seal on the bill.
The bill was pushed through by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, even as the two houses of Parliament were witness to some of the most unruliest scenes in the nation’s history. These include the pepper spraying, uprooting the presiding officers’ mics and physically assaulting Parliament officials.
The mayhem had resulted in expulsions and suspensions of Parliament members.
With the passage of the bill, supported by the principal opposition BJP, the curtains came down on the contentious issue of separate statehood for Telangana, which had seen several violent movements in the southern state in the past six decades.
The division, or demerger as some Telangana protagonists would put it, comes at a time when the country is headed for general elections in the summer with both the key players in national politics, the UPA led by the Congress and the National Democratic Alliance headed by the BJP, having a lot at stake politically.
The division expectedly has brought out doomsday predictions for the Congress in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions, together referred to as Seemandhra, which will constitute the residuary state following the bifurcation.
It will not come as a surprise if the ruling party, which had a significant vote bank in the two regions in the past, draws a blank in the elections, with the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress sharing the spoils arising out of the Congress’ loss.
The ruling party, however, hopes to make up for its losses in Seemandhra by riding piggy-back on the hugely popular Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the party widely seen as primarily responsible for the creation of the separate state.
Though there was talk of merger of TRS with the Congress in the past, it is unlikely to happen and the ruling party can, at best, expect goodwill for granting Telangana.
The BJP, on the other hand, has been trying to position itself as both the champion of the Telangana cause — it had promised two states for one vote in the past — and the savior of Seemandhra by demanding justice, including substantial financial package for the residuary state. The opposition party, in trying to maintain its perceived balance, did give some anxious moments to the treasury benches in the Parliament by raising constitutional deficiencies in the Telangana bill.
In the end, the party gave in the firm belief that it had scored some brownie points politically.
The Congress suffered several casualties and embarrassments en route to introducing the bill in the Parliament.
The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, at the behest of Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, rejected the draft bill which was sent to the House by the president seeking its opinion, raising the constitutional validity of the bill.
It also resulted in defections and resignations, including that of Kiran Reddy, couple of Union Ministers, and lawmakers from their posts as well as the party.


Yulia Skripal says recovery from poisoning ‘slow, painful’

Updated 2 min 54 sec ago
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Yulia Skripal says recovery from poisoning ‘slow, painful’

  • Skripal said she and her 66-year-old father Sergei were “lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination.”
  • The incident has sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West, including the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.

LONDON: Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with her ex-spy father in a nerve agent attack, said Wednesday her recovery has been “slow and painful,” and that she hopes to return to her home in Russia someday.
In her first appearance on camera since the poisoning that sent UK-Russia tensions soaring, Skripal said she and her 66-year-old father Sergei were “lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination.”
They spent weeks hospitalized in critical condition after they were found unconscious in the English city of Salisbury 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London, on March 4.
Britain blames Russia for poisoning the Skripals with a military-grade nerve agent — a charge Russia vehemently denies. The incident has sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West, including the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.
Yulia Skripal’s statement appeared designed in part to address claims from Moscow that Britain has effectively kidnapped the pair and prevented Russian officials from visiting them. But the Russian Embassy in London said it remained concerned that Skripal was being held against her will.
Yulia, 33, was discharged from the hospital in April, and her father last week. Both have been taken to an undisclosed location for their protection.
She said she had arrived to visit her father in Salisbury the day before the attack.
“After 20 days in a coma, I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned,” she said.
During their “slow and extremely painful” recovery, she has been struggling to come to terms with “the devastating changes thrust upon me both physically and emotionally,” she said.
“I don’t want to describe the details, but the clinical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing,” she said.
“In the longer term, I hope to return home to my country” once she and her father have both recovered, she added.
Sergei Skripal is a former Russian intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain before coming to the UK as part of a 2010 prisoner swap. He had been living quietly in Salisbury when he was struck down.
Britain says the Russian state poisoned the Skripals with a Soviet-designed nerve agent dubbed Novichok that likely was smeared on the door handle of Sergei Skripal’s suburban house.
The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed up Britain’s conclusion that the Skripals were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, but has not determined where it was produced.
Hundreds of counterterrorism officers and support staff are working on the case, but police have not yet identified any suspects.
Moscow accuses Britain of failing to provide any evidence for its claims and of stonewalling Russian requests for information.
Russia’s ambassador to London has accused the UK government of breaking international law by not granting Russia consular access to them. Britain has said it is up to the Skripals to decide whether they want to meet with embassy officials.
The Russian Embassy in London issued a statement that said, “We are glad to have seen Yulia Skripal alive and well. ... However, the video shown only strengthens our concerns as to the conditions in which she is being held.”
The statement said she appeared to be reading from a text “initially written by a native English-speaker.” It added that the UK “is obliged to give us the opportunity to speak to Yulia directly in order to make sure that she is not held against her own will and is not speaking under pressure. So far, we have every reason to suspect the opposite.”
Yulia Skripal requested that she and her father be given privacy.
“We need time to recover and come to terms with everything that has happened,” she said.
“I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy, but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.
“Also, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves,” she said.