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Can Congress get past Telengana?

Can Congress get past Telengana?
On the directions of Gandhi, the Congress big wigs have drawn up a schedule. The GOM on Telengana would finalise the draft bill by 18 November; send it to the cabinet and then to the President by 21 November. The President may send it to the Andhra assembly. The State chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy has been asked to convene the Assembly on 25 November to consider the bill.

This may not be the end of the Telengana tangle. The process has not been smooth since there is a vertical split in almost all the political parties in the state including the local Congress. But the most alarming thing is the opposition from the chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy who is becoming a problem rather than a solution. He has made no bones about his opposition to the bifurcation resisting the centre’s pressure to fall in line.

Perhaps it is not often the Congress high command has faced such behaviour from one of its chief ministers, that too a light weight politician like Kiran.  Coming from a Congress stable Reddy was not known as rebel.He took over 24 November 2010 from Rosaiah. Since then it had been a bumpy ride for the young chief minister.

To the dismay of the party high command, Kiran Reddy is now taking on the Centre on the bifurcation issue. In a strong letter addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the chief minister recently expressed concern over the way decisions were being taken and the process of bifurcation being pushed through ignoring all conventions and procedures.

The Congress leadership is not sure how to tackle the chief minister as he is bent on ruining their plans. Getting rid of Kiran is also not that easy at this juncture. Kiran has no intention of resigning. He has declared in a TV show recently, ‘Quitting is not the solution here; we have to debate the issue. We have to convince the people of the state as to why it should be united.’ AICC in charge of the state Digvijay Singh’s repeated pleas to the chief minister and PCC chief to persuade leaders to fall in line with the party decision have not yielded desired results.

Kiran Reddy has been quite blunt right from the beginning that he would not be a party to divide the state. It is alleged that he is instigating the agitators in the Seemandhra region. Reddy is planning to get the draft bill defeated when it comes to the Assembly with the support of 179 legislators from the Seemandhra region. He is confident that no legislator would listen to the high command when the chances of his/her own reelection are in jeopardy. Though the bill is referred to the Assembly for eliciting its views, the Congress high command is mulling over whether to avoid voting. Kiran, who wants to emerge as a martyr may also resign on the floor of the house during the debate? He has two options – to launch his own party or to join the YSR Congress.

Meanwhile, the GOM has had another round of negotiations with all the political parties from the state including the Congress, BJP, TRS, CPI, MIM and CPI-M. They continue to have their differences. The GOM is engaged in determining the boundaries of the new state, judicial and statutory bodies, and other administrative units. The GoM has also consulted water, finance, road transport and infrastructure departments in Andhra Pradesh to work out the division of their assets once Telangana is created.
The draft bill is likely to be on the basis of the Antony committee report on Telengana. The report proposes a regulatory mechanism for waster disputes, a special authority to supervise law and order, and also a law to prevent any legislative measures revoking existing land allotment.

This is not palatable to the TRS leaders.  Land, water, jobs and the law and order are the four important issues for the TRS. While accepting earlier awards.

The TRS wants the Krishna water award kept in abeyance. It also has reservations about the Polavaram project. The burden of the whole song is the status of Hyderabad. There are suggestions to limit the joint capital to Hyderabad revenue district or to GHMC area or extend to cover HMDA area.

TRS is against diluting the powers of the new state and is totally opposed to giving up law and order to the control of the centre. In short, the TRS wants the new state to enjoy all the powers like other 28 states and not become an undeclared Union Territory.   In the event of pushing the bill without these, the TRS would support the bill in Assembly but oppose the dilution. Also it will keep the options open for a post poll alliance with the NDA. So the Congress party’s hopes of a TRS merger with it are in doubt.

The Congress has to keep the TRS on its right side. Otherwise its calculations would go awry. It is imperative for the Congress to push through the bill. If the Bill cannot make it to Parliament in this session, the next available slot is the vote on account budget session next year as a full budget will not be presented in an election year.

Then the bill would be stuck and the Congress may lose both in the Telengana and the Seemandhra region.

IPA
Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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