Millennium Post

Congress feathers ruffled in Andhra

The Congress leadership has, at last, committed the blooper; it cleared the creation of separate state of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. These days the leadership is making mistake after mistake. Whole world, even a child, knew that dividing a prosperous state like Andhra Pradesh would be a mistake; even the Congress General Secretary in charge of party affairs in AP, Digvijaya Singh, had told Sonia Gandhi, in no uncertain terms, that carving of Telangana would be a mistake but his advice was of no avail. Party Vice- President, Rahul Gandhi, deputed his own emissary to undertake an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and he acted on his  advice which was, of course, misleading.

Digvijaya Singh had also cautioned Sonia Gandhi against bringing the ordinance to rescue tainted law makers but the UPA government ignored the advice  and went ahead with the measure. The Congress Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi, however, saw Digvijaya’s point and dubbed the ordinance as ‘non-sense’ which should be ‘torn and thrown’ (in a dust bin). It was subsequently withdrawn.

Evidently, political expediency by the Congress leaders finally won over reasoning in deciding to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh and the result was a string of resignations from the union council of ministers . Human Resource Development Minister, Pallam Raju, Textile Minister, Kavuri Samba Siva Rao, Minister of state for Tourism, Chiranjeevi, and Minister of state Railways, Kotla Surya Pradesh put in their papers in protest.

The question posed in political circles is: Will Andhra’s loss be Congress Party’s gain? Many in the ruling party say that dividing a prosperous state like Andhra Pradesh was a grave mistake. The creation of smaller states in the past has not shown the desired results and they were plunged in instability. Take the case of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh or recently carved out Uttarakhand. It is feared that the 29th state may meet the same fate.

Also the theory that smaller states are better administered has become outdated. In the days of information technology and e-governance, it is easy to govern bigger states with their vast resources. Large states can mobilize more resources, as Andhra Pradesh demonstrated, by being the most successful among the Indian states in tackling Maoism.

The best course, possibly, would have been to set up a second States’ Reorganization Commission to take into account the aspirations of the people, demanding bifurcation of their respective states and recommend steps to achieve that objective without political expediency being the guiding factor.

By carving out Telangana, the Congress may gain a few more seats in next year’s Lok Sabha election but the damage it has done to the prosperous southern state will take many years to repair. The decision raises serious economic and political challenges.

On the economic front the division may change the fortunes of 85 million people. One of the fastest growing states in India, Andhra Pradesh has successfully brought down poverty level to 9.2 per cent, which is less than  half the national average. Andhra has also emerged as one of the leading states in information technology, pharmaceuticals, health service and infrastructure. It is of vital importance to ensure that a break up would  spur and not whittle down these achievements.

The most important political fallout of creation of  Telangana will be in other states where regional aspirations have laid claim for statehood in Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Vidarbha, Harit Pradesh (comprising western uttar Pradesh) and so on. There can also be backlash from proponents of a united Andhra Pradesh, unleashing turmoil. Claims regarding exclusive status of Hyderabad will remain a flash point for many years.

Andhra Pradesh returned 33 members of Parliament in 2009 Lok Sabha elections for the Congress, a figure that now appears a distant dream as the next general elections approach.

With 17 of 42 Lok Sabha  seats and 117 assembly seats from Telangana region at stake, the Congress hopes to cut its losses and anticipates reversal in other two regions – Seemandhra (coastal Andhra) and Rayalseema – where YSR Congress is expected to bag a majority of seats.

Equally important consideration for the Congress was to deny the BJP an opportunity to steal the thunder. The BJP may lose if Telegana euphoria and gratitude to the Congress overwhelm its consistent support for the new state. BJP anyway is not a major player in coastal areas. Though the BJP turned down the demand for a separate Telangana when Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government was at the centre, subsequently it has been vociferous in supporting the demand. The leaders from coastal Andhra have been vehemently opposing  the new state.

Now there is a remote possibility of the Congress-TRS merger. It is doubtful if TRS chief, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, will merge his party with the Congress after the formation of the new state and, thereby, share the gains. The TRS appears to be  all set to sweep the poll on its own.

The roadmap for constitution of Telangana – the 29th state of the Union – may take five to six months. A group of ministers will be set up to consider issues like territorial boundaries and status of Hyderabad as joint capital; the GOM’s recommendations will go to the cabinet in form of a bill. After the cabinet approval, the Home Ministry will send the bill to the President for his consent.
The President under article 3 will seek the opinion of the state legislature. Once the legislature gives its opinion, the President will approve the bill for introduction in Parliament. Both the houses need to approve the bill by simple majority. The President then gives assent to legislation and India’s 29th state will be notified.
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