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No ceasefire in this words war

No ceasefire in this words war
No longer a veteran street fighter but a new chief minister of Telangana, K Chandrasekhar Rao has strangely embraced an aggressive style of promoting his state’s interests, hurling challenges every day to his Seemandhra counterpart, over the  many contentious issues triggered in the aftermath of  UPA’s hasty pre-election bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.  Rao neatly bypassed the Congress which lost the integrated Andhra Pradesh.

Rao’s assertions are virtually designed to hasten the day of Telangana assuming full control over Greater Hyderabad, though it has to be the common capital of both states (TS and AP) for ten years under the A P Reorgnisation Act. He has ordered an intense state-wide survey on 19 August to establish ‘nativity’ of households ostensibly to ensure that benefits of his welfare schemes or fee reimbursement for students accrued to ‘ Telanganis’ only. Language has ceased to be a unifying factor.

AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has decided to take the ‘nativity’ battle to the President and the Prime Minister and also move the Supreme Court in this regard. AP ministers say they would not remain silent ‘if our students, employees and small businessmen are affected in the name of nativity.’ The Naidu government charged Telangana state (TS) with repeatedly ‘violating’ the AP Reorganisation Act ‘in letter and spirit through its various actions’. T-ministers are no less wanting in seeing Naidu as conspiring against Telengana development.

Persuasion having failed in getting the two governments to settle differences mutually – and the war of words escalating by the day - the Centre has armed the governor with extra powers to ensure maintenance of law and order, to the consternation of Chandrasekhar Rao, who has charged the Modi government with turning ‘fascist’.  His partymen were keyed up to shake the Parliament over an ‘unconstitutional’ move ‘usurping the rights of a democratically- elected government’. Meanwhile, he has appealed to the prime minister to get the home ministry order rescinded forthwith.

On the other hand, the Centre’s action was defended by Chandrababu Naidu saying such an order was clearly spelt out in AP Reorganisation Act. He castigated KCR’s calling the PM ‘fascist’ and said Rao had been ‘raking up a controversy on every issue’. But the seasoned tech-savvy CM Naidu has himself unabashedly urged district collectors to implement TDP government’s ‘political mandate’, making TD cadres part of ‘development process and help us win a few more seats next time for continuity of governance’.

Rao has said he would not abide by the home ministry communication and would take up with chief ministers of states ‘the direct affront to the Federal Polity of the country’. The Centre’s action, he contends, also ‘violates’ provisions in AP Reorganisation Act with regard to the role of the governor. However, the move by the Centre seemingly contradicts Modi’s declared respect for state’s autonomy and commitment to federalism.

But the bifurcated states have become a political battle field raising tensions which could boil over. And these would cast their shadows in the forthcoming budget sessions of the two states being held on either side of the historic Assembly building. Officials and security staff do not rule out the risk of agitated members from one house raiding into the other to vent their feelings on the more sensitive issues for them.

Both governments have hardly settled down for governance, the disputes and challenges having filled the air over the last two and a half months since bifurcation became effective on 2 June. These disputes include allocation of employees in the state secretariat and other undivided institutions – and the TS government wanting to safeguard promotions and other interests of employees belonging to Telangana - power and water issues.

Another contentious issue relates to sharing of fee reimbursement for students in higher courses, and counselling for engineering and other professional courses, already held up affecting over nine lakh students. The matter has gone to the apex court.

KCR is also going about renaming some of the widely known institutions of learning, like the N G Ranga Agriculture University, just to honour key figures of the Telangana movement. He asserts his right to change the names of institutions in his ‘state’ (capital region) and has warned, ‘a lot of things will change in Hyderabad. ‘We need our own names and our own culture. AP leaders should ‘mind their own business and reimburse fees for Andhra students taking admissions in Telangana universities,’ he contends.

Neutral observers of the AP/Telangana scene have deplored unhealthy competition between leaders of two nascent states. Chandrasekar Rao who has prided himself always as one in tune with culture and customs of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad has, by his posturings, invited TDP criticisms of his behaving like the monarch (Nizam) of that state. In retaliation, the Telangana camp finds Naidu still posing as CEO of both the states.

Both the KCR and Naidu’s TDP governments are in a financial mess but keep proclaiming their governments’ determination to find ways of meeting their electoral pledges of waiver of farmers’ loans (crop and gold loans) in 2013-2014.

RBI, whom they approached, turned down their requests on banks writing off or rescheduling crop loans with its own data collection disproving the states’ claims of ‘distress’ due to drought. Finally, after further reviews with the governments, RBI has agreed on rescheduling short-term crop loans only and that too limited to fewer ‘distressed’ mandals in three districts of Telangana and four districts in AP.

This would cover relatively a smaller part of total claims made by the two governments for over 1,200 mandals in the two states. The reschedule will be for a period of three years (with one year moratorium) and banks would not forego the right to recovery if the loan remains overdue after three years.  The farm loan waiver announcements have drawn the ire of commercial banks including the SBI which say it has affected ‘repayment culture’ not only in AP but also in poll-bound states where farmers are tending to default.

Both states are exploring other possible ways of mobilising resources, mainly through institutional borrowings, to meet the commitments to farmers, who have already turned defaulters. AP expects to raise Rs 28,000 crores for crop loan waiver while Telangana government plans to raise at least Rs 15,000 crore by selling prime land for similar purpose. The total outstanding farmers’ loans of the banking system in the two states are now put at Rs 1.37 lakh crore.

The post-bifurcation confrontation between the two governments will most likely dominate the budget sessions of the two new states in the coming weeks on either side of the historic assembly building. Officials and security staff do not rule out the risk of agitated members from one house
raiding into the other to vent their feelings on  the most sensitive issues for them. IPA
S Sethuraman

S Sethuraman

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