N Nagaraja Rao from Hyderabad
It was Jai Telangana all the way right from Osmania University, the hotbed of T-agitation, to all Telangana districts, where people erupted in joy the moment the Congress announced its decision to carve out a separate state. In contrast the scene in Seemandhra was exactly the opposite. The United Andhra JAC called for a bandh for 72 hours protesting against the decision to carve out a new state of Telangana. Police had to lob teargas shells in Anantapur town to control unruly mobs protesting against the betrayal of the Congress government at the Centre and they also demanded resignation of all legislators and Ministers elected from this region of Rayalseema and Andhra.
Perhaps the Congress high command largely neutralised any serious negative fallout from its leaders belonging to Coastal-Rayalaseema regions while announcing its decision to carve out Telangana State? By dilly dallying over the issue it is obvious that even Andhra and Rayalseema knew what is in the offing .Thus Telangana state shall be the India’s 29th state.
Telangana, an idea almost as old as India’s first re-organisation of states, took a decisive step closer to reality when the UPA coordination committee and the Congress Working Committee (CWC) both endorsed it, unanimously. Paving the way for the formation of the new State, the CWC, highest decision-making body of the party, adopted one of its most directive resolutions “to request the Central government to take steps in accordance with the Constitution to form a separate State of Telangana.”
After deciding to accord statehood to Telangana, the Congress high command now appears to have started making “friendly gestures” to TRS. If the statement of the Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh is to be believed, he openly solicited the merger of the TRS into the Congress as promised by TRS supremo some time back if the statehood is granted. TRS Supremo thanked the AICC president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, opposition BJP and 32 other parties which supported Telagnana state. He thanked Smt Sushma Swaraj for voluntering to support the bill in the Parliament.
For someone who has spearheaded the movement for separate Telangana state for over 12 years, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) founder-president K Chandrasekhar Rao was surprisingly subdued and cautious while reacting to the announcement on the decision to grant statehood. Rao demanded: “We want T-bill be introduced in the coming monsoon session of Parliament. We also need some clarifications on the common capital. We have no objection if Andhra uses Hyderabad to run their administration till the infrastructure is ready in the new state. But, the Congress should give clarity on the modalities on the common capital.” He also said “if the clarification given by the Congress on common capital was acceptable to the people of Telangana and TRS, then the question of merger of TRS with Congress would arise,” he said. In a cautious note he added that Congress went back on its assurance in 2009. “The TRS will be vigilant and cautious till the T-bill is introduced,” Rao added and officially celebrations would start only then.
The development is set to change the electoral arithmetic as well. If a separate state is formed, the Congress may gain two electoral advantages—the party may have an edge in the state and Lok Sabha elections from the region and the TRS, which has championed the cause of Telangana, may merge with the Congress. Telangana has 17 of the 42 parliamentary constituencies in Andhra Pradesh. If the Panchayat elections held this week are any indication, the opposition TDP has gained an edge and clearly irrespective of the statehood demand it has to fight the anti-incumbency. TDP has fared well in both the regions of the state and still Congress party risks losing the remaining seats—only those who have strong ground-level support would be able to survive the anti-Telangana tide in the Rayalseema and Coastal regions.
Andhra Pradesh will hold state assembly and general election simultaneously in 2014. And the YSR Congress led by Congress rebel YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of the late former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, is threatening to erode the traditional voter base of the Congress. The challenge posed by the YSR Congress, in fact, raised the urgency for the Congress to resolve the Telangana tangle to preserve its electoral chances in that region. Unlike other statehood demands, the campaign for Telangana has been a purely political one and not based on divisive linguistic lines. The culture, tradition, language and terrain of Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema regions are similar.
For Congress, conceding the demand for Telangana state may have a cascading effect with more regions demanding statehood. For instance, the people of Darjeeling have been campaigning for the creation of a Gorkhaland state and so also Vidharbha. The culture, language, traditions and even the geographical terrain of the Gorkhaland region are completely different from the rest of West Bengal, making a strong case for statehood. Has the Congress opened a Pandora’s box or a can of worms to begin with is the moot question?