Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh broke his silence in the Rajya Sabha by demanding that the commitment made by the UPA government for a special package for Andhra Pradesh must be fulfilled by the Modi-led government.Singh has been conspicuous by his silence in parliament ever since he demitted office, however, on Friday he chose to break his silence.”My government had announced a package for Andhra on the floor of parliament, this government is honour-bound to fulfill this solemn commitment,” he said.The former prime minister’s intervention came amidst angry exchanges between the government and the Congress party on the “Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill” by Congress member KVP Ramachandra Rao.With the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley opposing its introduction on the grounds that “it was a Money Bill hence it cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha”, the issue has caused a lot of friction between the government and the treasury benches. Furthermore, it led to a lot of acrimony between the two sides when Rao sought to move the bill a fortnight ago.Soon as Rao began reading out the provisions of his proposed legislation, the government benches opposed it. It asserted that since it had monetary implications it should be treated as a money bill and should be introduced in the Lok sabha and not in the upper house.This led to heated exchanges between the Opposition and the government, with Congress MPs trooping into the well of the house. Expressing his helplessness in deciding whether the proposed legislation was a money bill or not the deputy chairman of the house referred it to the Lok sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to decide on the matter.Significantly the demand for a special package for Andhra Pradesh was also supported by the TDP and ally of the ruling BJP at the centre.The reason the Opposition has opposed the government’s move to term the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill as a Money is because under the rules the Rajya Sabha can only debate a Money Bill it cannot vote on it. Whereas in the case of a Finance Bill both houses can debate and vote on it.The Government is in a minority in the upper house and the Opposition wants to leverage its numbers to force the government to fulfill the previous governments commitment for a special package for AP. The government fears if it concedes the demand it will open a Pandora’s box and other states like Bengal and Bihar will also demand a similar package.The Congress party was literally wiped out of Andhra after its decision to bifurcate the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, its hoping that if it succeeds in forcing the government to concede the demand, it might help it recover its lost political ground in the state.The party took up the demand outside parliament as well with its Vice President Rahul Gandhi tweeting his support for a special package for the state.
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