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Going federal or losing the plot?

The Congress-led UPA’s decision to announce the birth of the 29th state, Telangana, carved out of Andhra Pradesh, looks like nothing but cold electoral math to ensure that the party does not get wiped out from the southern state(s) in the upcoming general elections in 2014. Definitely self-serving, the declaration, however, can be read as Congress’ attempt to offset the growing disregard for the party in the region, particularly because the P Chidambaram, the union home minister in 2009, had gone back on his word to announce the birth of the new state despite having promised it to the supporters of the cause.

The mass-scale agitation before and after the 2009 flip-flop on the part of the Congress, nevertheless, has had a lasting impact on the current state of affairs, although the proclamation is more an endeavour to keep themselves afloat in the political ocean of the Andhra region than to give in to the sentiments of a community of people even though they have been voicing their demand for several decades. With 17 of 42 Lok Sabha seats and 117 assembly seats, having Telangana under its thumb would certainly prove beneficial for the ruling party at the centre, particularly in the light of Congress’ delayed but persistent support for the cause that started way back in 1968-69 and claimed several lives over the years.

However, what can be said in defence of the decision is that Telangana, except for the Hyderabad region, has not seen much growth and development, while the rest of Andhra Pradesh has prospered beyond recognition. In fact, equal distribution of development gains has remained a distant dream for the people of Telangana, who, have suffered the brunt of biased allocation of revenues and important projects to other regions of Andhra. Moreover, the hub of India’s information technology revolution, Hyderabad, looks like an oasis of urban glamour in a sea of rural abjection that is most of the Telangana region till date. This is why the various political factions have been either keen or wary on the division of Andhra Pradesh, depending upon their history and proximity or distance from the swanky capital (now common capital city for 10 years).

That said, carving out smaller states along linguistic or cultural lines from larger and more diverse provinces may not bode well for the republic of India, as this could easily inflame the separatist causes in insurgency-stricken places such as Kashmir, or West Bengal, where demand for a separate Gorkhaland has been plaguing the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government, or claims of Vidarbha and Harit Pradesh from what exists now as Uttar Pradesh. However, the demand from divorce from the parent state and cut the umbilical cord might have been precipitated by the huge economic and socio-cultural disparities that were prevalent in the Telangana region. With the incendiary cocktail of cultural invasion from Andhra and economic subjugation being the state of things, secession from Andhra was perhaps more of a necessity for Telangana rather than an emotive luxury.

The traumatic and protracted agitation has borne fruits at last, although it remains to be seen how the formation of the new state shapes up in the months to come and whether it can adroitly skirt the difficult fates that have befallen other separated lands such as Uttarakhand, Jharkhand or Chhattisgarh.

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