Millennium Post

Telangana, back with a bang

Will Telengana become a separate state? The vexed problem is about to be solved if one goes by the mood in the Congress party. The lawmakers from Telangana have so far accused the Centre of following a ‘one-step-forward-two-backward’ approach when it comes to addressing their demand for a separate state but the leadership cannot afford to dillydally anymore. The AICC general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh Digvijaya Singh has just submitted his report to the party chief. Coming down to two options – to keep it as a united Andhra or to give Telengana – the leadership has to take a call this week. 

Part of the reason for the delay is that the Congress continues to look for a win-win strategy in all the three regions, but the problem is serious. It can no more postpone a decision, as elections to the Lok Sabha and also to the state Assembly are due in a few months. It is faced with the Hobson’s choice, as the people of the other two regions will protest violently if a separate Telengana is carved out of Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, there will be bloodshed in Telegnana if a separate state is not given as the people of this region have been waiting for more than five decades.  

The UPA government led by the Congress has got away far too long on the issue. The party leaders from the Telangana region have been finding it increasingly difficult to justify this prevarication for years, even though the Congress had assured that a separate Telangana state would be carved out of Andhra Pradesh at the earliest on 9 December 2009. In the initial stages, it was the Congress party held that a consensus needed to be built on the sensitive issue, but almost all political parties and public representatives from the state are divided on regional lines, some opposing Telangana statehood, while others in favour of it.

The movement for a separate Telengana has been there for the past 50 years, the prominent among them being the 1969 Jai Telengana movement and the 1972 Andhra agitation. The backward region, except Hyderabad, has historically lagged behind due to its geography and politics. It has also been a hotbed for the naxalites for the past four decades.

The Centre’s flip-flop over the issue began on 9 December 2009 when the then Home Minister
P Chidambaram promised the formation of a new state only to go back on it fearing a backlash. The Centre later setup the Sri Krishna Commission, which produced its report giving six options. But even after the report, the government did not take any decision. Two issues seem to be at the centre of the contention between the two sides, which are the future of Hyderabad and the repercussions, in terms of the sharing of river waters from the completed and planned irrigation projects after the division of the State. Telangana region is one of the most water-rich areas in the country, yet has been systematically deprived of these resources. As a result, it suffered from acute agrarian crisis, leading up to severe agitations. Andhra Pradesh has given 33 valuable seats to the UPA-II kitty in 2009 and also the Congress came back to power in the state. However, the party has lost its hold since then after the death of chief minister Rajashekhara Reddy and the birth of YSR Congress floated by his rebel son Jagan Reddy. Lacking a strong Congress leadership, the party is struggling to restore its image and staring at a rather bleak future in the state.

Assuming the Congress decides to grant a separate state status, let us look at the possible scenario. If Telengana were given, the immediate crisis would be that the MPs from the other two regions would resign affecting the UPA-II, which is already reduced to a minority after the departure of the TMC and the DMK. The calculations for the 2014 polls were that the Congress would get a majority of the 17 seats from the region and the TRS would merge with the Congress. But the hard assessment is that it would not get more than eight to nine seats. Moreover, the credit would go to the Telengana Rashtra Samithi, which had been agitating for a separate state for the past decade or so.

On the other hand, the party would be wiped out in the Rayalaseema region where the fight would be between the Congress and the newly formed YSR congress headed by Jagan Reddy where Jagan would have the upper hand. As for the Andhra region, it will be the Telugu Desam, which had been languishing these past four years that would benefit, as the fight would be between the Congress and the TDP. The Congress did attempt to turn it around in coastal Andhra by launching Chiranjeevi, with the merger of his party Praja Rajyam into the Congress, as its leader. However, he failed to capture the popular imagination and that experiment was a non-starter. In the final analysis, the Congress leadership found it was a question of just four or five seats either way and hence it has to take a call.  

If the Congress decides to keep a united Andhra Pradesh, Telengana will burn. The Congress MPs and legislators will resign. There is also the danger of the BJP joining hands with the TRS. The naxalites and the students would capture the movement .The Congress also may have to change the leadership in the state to deal with the situation. The Congress is inclined for a separate Telengana, but whichever way the decision is taken, the centre and the state should be ready to face a volatile situation, as it is an emotional issue. The centre also has to be ready to impose President’s rule if the situation goes out of hand. The Congress should be reconciled to lose the state whatever decision it takes. IPA
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