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Post-partition blues rock Andhra

At last, Telangana’s here. The people of this backward region have realised their 60 year’s dream while the prosperous Andhra region has lost out. The Congress party has taken risks in taking a decision after years of dithering. But the million-dollar question is whether the creation of the 29th state is a solution or a problem? On the face of it, more problems are staring at the Congress than the solutions.

Andhra Pradesh, the first entity formed on linguistic basis was created in 1953 out of the erstwhile Madras Presidency with Kurnool as its capital. With the State Reorganisation Act 1956, the merger of Hyderabad and Andhra states took place and Andhra Pradesh state was born in November 1956.  Now it has been proposed to carve out the 29th state of Telangana.

While there could be a case for creation of smaller states, the decision on Telangana is a gamble, which could well turn out to be a shortsighted decision. The main assumption is the hope that the Congress can cut its losses in the 2014 elections. Out of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, the party hopes to get at least 15 after a merger of the TRS with the Congress (this has been promised by the TRS chief Chandra Shekhar Rao). The Congress is resigned to losing the rest of the 42 seats in the state. As for the Assembly polls, there will be no Congress presence in Andhra, which had been a citadel of the party.

On the face of it, although there is jubilation in Telangana, the challenges ahead are many for the Congress, the UPA government and the state government and even for the newly created state. They include economic and political. A political turmoil seems to be on the cards, which may turn out to be costly for the Congress. Politically, there can be a backlash as had been witnessed during the Telangana agitation and Andhra agitation in the 60s’ and seventies. Right now, the supporters of a united Andhra Pradesh are seething with anger, which may turn into violence soon. The centre has already dispatched more central forces expecting trouble. Nobody knows what course the protests will take. The vested interests may soon jump in to stoke the fire. The fact that Andhra could lose Hyderabad ultimately is one reason for the rich investors from the Andhra region to support protests. The violence may ultimately end up in law and order problem and imposition of President’s rule.

Secondly, the impact of the creation of Telangana on other states should be more worrying as it might result in agitations in several parts of the country. Emboldened by the decision, Rayalaseema has begun to demand a separate state. Already the Gorkhaland agitation has been revived in West Bengal and so has the Bodoland demand in Assam. Some working committee members like Mukul Wasnik have raised the Vidarbha issue. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh will revive his long pending Harit Pradesh demand. The BSP chief Mayawati will be emboldened to demand cutting UP into four states.  Then there is a demand for Saurashtra, Kutch, Ladakh and many more for smaller states. One way the centre could deal with this is to setup a second State Reorganisation Commission to look into the entirety of the issue for smaller states because the Congress has opened up the Pandora’s box.

The third is the economic challenge and how to distribute the assets between the newly created Telangana and Andhra. The fortunes of people in both states would be affected. Andhra Pradesh has the risk of losing its primacy.  The united Andhra Pradesh boasts of successfully brining down the poverty rate to 9.2 per cent, which is less than half of the national average.  There are several concerns about Hyderabad, which have not been addressed fully. There are fears about the real estate prices, which may fall because of the instability. Will more foreign investment come to Hyderabad? Will it continue to be the pride of Information Technology companies? These are questions that remain unanswered.

The fourth is that while there is a case for smaller states, there is also an inherent political instability, which is evident in many smaller states and the North East. Will creation of Telengana result in more regionalism and fracturing of the polity?  Even on development, states like Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and most in the North East do not perform well while states like Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have done well. Telengana could go either way. Fifthly, there is a fear that the naxal infested Telengana might totally go into their hands. This was one of the arguments advanced by the United Andhra Pradesh supporters. Already one third of the country is under the influence of the naxalites.

While it will be a good thing if the naxalites decide to come into the mainstream and fight elections, they can also be dangerous. Looking ahead, now that Telangana has become a reality, a lot of responsibility rests on the leaders of the state who fought for it. They should fulfill the expectations of the people and take the state forward. There should be inclusive politics and determination to build the young state. As of now there is no visionary in the horizon who can achieve this.   The Congress has no big leaders in the region while the Chandrasekhar Rao family including his son, daughter and nephew dominates the TRS.

The Congress party has veered towards creating Telangana taking too many risks but the over riding consideration seems to be short-term electoral gains. The immediate impact is that Congress has lost Andhra and may gain Telangana. Only time will tell whether this gamble will work or it will
boomerang.
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