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How Congress took Andhra Pradesh to knotty T-junction

For these Congress leaders, it’s now a simple question of loyalty: loyalty towards the party, which has given the green signal to creation of India’s 29th state, or towards the people, who have hit the streets in almost all cities and towns to oppose the state’s bifurcation? The mental struggle is becoming more troubling in light of talks about a resolution to be debated in the Andhra Pradesh assembly over the state’s bifurcation.

Seemandhra – as coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema regions are jointly called – leaders are now banking on AP Congress affairs in-charge Digvijaya Singh’s statement that the draft bill of the state’s bifurcation has to be sent to the assembly for a debate as per the constitution. Leaders from Seemaandhra regions believe this is one last opportunity to block the Centre’s bifurcation plans. In Andhra Pradesh’s house of 294 MLAs, 175 belong to Rayalaseema and coastal AP, while the remaining 119 are from Telangana. Even though 17 MLAs stand disqualified, Seemanndhra still has 158 members – significantly more than their counterparts in Telangana.

At heart, however, the question doing the rounds these days in a state which has seen widespread violence still remains the same: will all 82 MLAs of Congress from Seemandhra follow the party high command’s stand or bow to popular demand?

While the union cabinet’s note and details provided by the group of ministers (GoM) have not said anything specific on the resolution issue, union minister for science and technology S Jaipal Reddy, who comes from Andhra Pradesh, has said that the state legislative assembly does not need to pass a resolution to bifurcate a state. ‘I am not giving a political clarification, but only a constitutional clarification.... As per the constitution, no resolution is required – only the relevant Bill needs to be sent to the state assembly,’ he said.

This has created further confusion among politicians.

Meanwhile, it appears that neither the Congress nor its advisors foresaw the repercussions of the bifurcation move: all 13 Seemandhra districts are burning, and there was a complete power shutdown in many districts beginning late 6 October or the morning of 7 October, with curfew slapped in at least one major town – Vizianagaram – following widespread violence.

But why are people from Seemandhra resisting the formation of Telangana? It is deeply linked to a few ground realities in the state: Investments in irrigation and real estate projects in and around Hyderabad. Future access to Godavari water for the industrial corridor. For the middle class, fear of losing urban and globally connected employment opportunities in Hyderabad. Government jobs in Hyderabad. Future access to the river’s waters on which the coastal region’s industries are heavily dependent.

With the rise of Jaganmohan Reddy, Congress chances looked bleak in Seemandhra even as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) held its fort strongly in the Telangana region. The Congress won 33 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state in 2009 elections, which played a major role in the formation of UPA-II. Even in 2004, Congress’s basket was quite full: the party won 29 seats from AP.

But with the party’s future looking bleak in AP – due largely to misgovernance and the death of chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, a regional satrap who played the biggest role in the good showing in AP – political pundits believe the party realised it had no hope in Seemandhra. To cut the losses, the party wanted to play the Telangana card with a hope that the TRS would back them and help the party win a huge chunk if not all 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana region (the remaining 25 of AP’s 42 Lok Sabha seats are in Seemandhra).

According to political analysts, the first to get hit was the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which was threatening to stage a comeback on the plank of development. TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu, who had written to the union home ministry in support of Telangana, hoping that the government would not dare bifurcate the state, received a rude shock with the latest developments. His party has lost ground in Seemandhra now, as the Congress has claimed that it took a decision to carve out Telangana only after getting a nod from the TDP.

On arrangement with GovernanceNow
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