Can Telangana be an exemplar state?
As the 29th state of India was born at the stroke of midnight hour on 2 June, the national mood ranged from spontaneous outpouring of joy in the newly-formed Telangana to sombre and mournful ambience in the Seemandhra region of Andhra Pradesh. Formed after decades of bitter struggle over identity and economic independence from the more prosperous swathes of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana’s birth, after the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 was passed, signals a challenge to the linguistic paradigm of state demarcation that has hitherto been the norm in the Republic of India. However, given the years of animosity and confrontation by these two Telegu-speaking regions, what is advised is a vision freed of the contingencies of the past – the difficult and violent history of thwarted aspirations, political one-upmanship of the Congress and the relentless campaign by K Chandrashekhar Rao, the newly sworn in Chief Minister, to carve out Telangana out of the composite Andhra. Inasmuch as the larger Andhra Pradesh itself was a result of strategies to avoid another Kashmir-like situation by dividing the state of Hyderabad along linguistic lines (Telegu, Marathi, Kannada), the battle for Telangana had its seeds sown in the calculations designed to brng about the nation-building exercise in the first flushes of the Nehruvian era. That Telangana’s birth coincided with the absolute decimation of Congress in the general election 2014, even though the grand old party banked on passing of the Telangana Bill as their conduit to a consecutive third term in power at the centre, is a telling sign that populist politics aimed at cashing on vulnerable passions of the masses would not work until it is padded up by real work.
While it is a good idea to let bygones be bygones, there are actual issues at stake which must be addressed to prevent further unrest in the now separated states. Chiefly, the concerns over sharing of water and natural resources, as well as the power generation capacities, must be tackled as soon as possible, in addition to the gigantic need of developing an independent capital city in the image of Hyderabad, which is going to remain the joint capital for the next ten years. Under the stewardship of K C Rao, the state’s first chief minister and leader of Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, the ten districts of Telangana which account for over 45 per cent of the forest cover of the formerly unified Andhra, must be harnessed to also benefit the better developed but under-resourced swathes of Seemandhra. In addition, Telangana is also strategically positioned to comprise about 68 per cent of the catchment area of the Krishna river and 79 per cent of the Godavari river, thereby tilting the balance unfairly in favour of the 29th state. On the other hand, Telangana’s acute shortage of power generation capacity could be plugged by importing the surplus from Chandrababu Naidu-led Andhra. It is therefore extremely important the trust deficit between the two states is minimised.