India’s Parliament has approved a plan to create a 29th state following days of political mayhem, including a melee in which a politician unleashed pepper spray on his colleagues.
Members of groups opposed to the division of southern Andhra Pradesh state into it and the new state called Telangana from Andhra drowned out a speech by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just before the vote on Thursday by shouting “No, No.”
However, the upper house passed the bill in a voice vote as the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party joined the ruling Congress party in supporting the legislation, which was approved by the lower house on Tuesday.
The president’s assent to the bill will be the final step towards the creation of the new state, which the Congress party wanted achieved before national elections in the summer.
Politicians who opposed the splitting of Andhra Pradesh shouted slogans, held placards in protest and even tore copies of the bill as Singh attempted to address the house.
Supporters have campaigned for 53 years for economically deprived Telangana, which they say has been neglected by successive state governments.
But wealthier regions of Andhra Pradesh, home to IT giants including Google and Microsoft, have strongly opposed the split which they say would create economic upheaval.
Hyderabad, the IT hub, will serve as joint capital of both states for at least the next 10 years.
The chief minister of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh resigned on Wednesday in protest over the contentious bill.
Kiran Kumar Reddy announced on Wednesday he was stepping down with a “heavy heart” as chief minister, and from the ruling Congress party, over the bill.
Reddy’s move came a day after uproar during a vote on the bill in the lower house of parliament that saw a blackout of live televised proceedings amid fears of vociferous protests by opposing MPs.
Reddy slammed as “shameful” politicians’ behaviour in pushing through the bill without proper debate, and also attacked the decision to cut the TV feed to stop the public watching.
“The manner in which the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha [lower house] reflects the new depths to which our parliamentary institutions have sunk in,” Reddy wrote in his resignation letter.