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Damned if you don’t, Chaos if you do

December 10, 2009

There has been a lot of political activity going on in the state of Andhra Pradesh lately. The issue that has been on hand is the creation of a state within the state of Andhra Pradesh called Telangana. Telangana, meaning ‘land of Telugus’, was part of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. After the accession of Hyderabad State with India in 1948, Telangana remained a separate state till 1956 when it was merged with Andhra State, carved out of Madras province, to form Andhra Pradesh. It was India’s first state formed on linguistic lines. The proposed state of Telangana will have ten districts of Greater Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medak, Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar, Warangal, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Adilabad and Khammam. Telangana will have a contiguous area bordering Andhra, Rayalaseema (parts of the existing Andhra Pradesh), Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh – a total area of 114,800 sq.km with a population of around 35 million.

The demand for a separate state of Telangana has been going on for quite some-time now. There is a separate political outfit by the name Telangana Rashtra Samiti or the TRS headed by K. Chandrashekhar Rao. The man’s commitment to the cause cannot be questioned. He was ready to align with any party that was ready to assure him of the creation of Telangana. It may be added here that in the last assembly elections Rao’s party TRS did not do particularly well and even in the Telangana region the Indian National Congress headed by YS Rajshekhar Reddy got a fair number of seats. However, for the past couple of weeks the demand for Telangana had become shrill and there was a widespread student protest demanding a separate state. The largest university in Andhra Pradesh, the Osmania University saw huge student rallies and students being beaten up by cops leading to further agitation by them. The University was a veritable fortress. It did not help matters at all when K. Chandrashekhar Rao went on a fast unto death if his demand for the state of Telangana was not met. His condition deteriorated and there was concern for his life as his fast went on for days on end. He was exhorted by all parties to break his fast. Andhra Chief Minister K. Rosaiah went to meet him and try to convince him that he should break his fast so that things can be discussed. KCR was adamant. The state came to a standstill and all educational institutions were closed for 15 days looking at the law and order situation.

The fact is that all political parties during this time postured for the creation of the state of Telangana. The ruling Congress party was seen as the villain in the piece and as the only one not acceding to the creation of Telangana. From BJP on the extreme right to the Communists on the extreme left and all the regional parties including the Telgu Desam and Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam Party said that they were for the creation of Telangana. The bombshell came at 11 PM at night on the 9th of December when the Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram declared that the Center had decided that the demand for a separate Telangana state was for the welfare of the people of the region and therefore they had decided to accede to the demand and he exhorted KCR to break his fast. The fact is that the Centre was genuinely concerned about the health of Chandrashekhar Rao and the law and order condition prevailing in the state. No sooner had the declaration of the state of Telangana made, all hell broke loose. While the followers of Chandrashekhar Rao could not stop celebrating there was a stunned silence is all other parties. Only the BJP stood its ground and welcomed the move. Both the TDP and Prajarajyam Party were found fuming. Even in the Congress Party there has been a resentment regarding Telangana. The resentment has been so acute that it is being reported that more than 90 MLA’s have submitted their resignation to the Speaker of the House. There is a political crisis of sorts. This was cheap political one-upmanship by the TDP and Prajarajyam Party and it has now become clear that they were never for Telangana but were posturing to create an impression that they were for the move. They were taking a political posture to make it difficult for the Congress to rule the state. Now that the Congress has announced their decision for the creation of Telangana they have changed their posture and have come out into the open opposing the move. This was cheap politics and they have been exposed.

[Telanganga_Hyderabad.jpg]

The basic question is about the creation of the state itself. And even if it comes about the supporters of Telangana have said categorically that Hyderabad will be the capital of Telangana. A look at the map above shows that proposed Telangana has Hyderabad almost in the middle. This is seen as totally unjustified by the supporters of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad is a contentious issue and it will be very difficult for the people of Andhra Pradesh to accept a state without Hyderabad. Most of the MP’s and MLA’s who have submitted their resignation have called for a ‘united’ Andhra Pradesh. Even political parties like the TDP and Prajarajyam who had been supporting Telangana till now have done a volte face and are now demanding that Andhra Pradesh should remain intact. The Congress MLA’s and MP’s are furious and will have none of it. One must remember that the Congress Party returned a majority of MLA’s and MP’s from Andhra Pradesh and the party had done particularly well there. The thinking of the Congress party in Delhi was that they will be seen as the villains if they were to remain adamant about a ‘united’ Andhra Pradesh. The BJP was quick to point out that during their term in office they had created Uttaranchal and that they were for a separate Telangana. The regional parties like the TDP also made noises for a separate Telangana. Now that the announcement has been made they have done a about turn and have started a campaign against the bifurcation of the state of Andhra Pradesh. The Congress is in a bind and that is compounded by the fact that their own MLA’s and MP’s are furiously against this. Some say that this whole drama was engineered by Delhi and that after a protracted campaign against Telangana this creation of Telangana will be withdrawn. To me this seems farfetched as this will be hara-kiri for the Congress. Chances are that the Congress took the regional parties on face value and did not anticipate such a huge reaction against the creation of Telangana. The ball is firmly in Delhi’s court and chief minister K. Rosaiah has said that he will not accept the resignation of any of his MLA’s nor will he place the proposal of the creation of the state of Telangana on the floor of the house unless there is a ‘consensus’. The political situation in Andhra Pradesh remains fluid.

The story of Telangana does not end here. There are other regions in the country that have been asking for separate statehood for long. One of them is the demand for  Gorkhaland to be carved from West Bengal with Darjeeling as its capital. It is being reported that already there are activists who have started a fast unto death in Darjeeling to impress upon the centre about the seriousness of their efforts. Then there is a demand for a separate Bundelkhand carved from Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh also has seen demands that the western part be separated as Harit Pradesh and the eastern part as Purvanchal. In Maharashtra there is the demand from the eastern Vidarbha region for autonomy and a bifurcation from the mother state. In Karnataka there is the demand for a Kodavaland in the region called Coorg. Then there are other demands too, some of them in their infancy. Suddenly all these demands have come alive with the declaration of the creation of Telangana. For the activists of all these proposed ‘states’ they see a ray of hope and have started campaigning for their state vigorously. For the rulers in Delhi they have opened a Pandora’s Box and do not know what to do. To save the life of Chandrashekhar Rao and to maintain peace and harmony in the state they acquiesced to the demand for Telangana. Now if they go back on their decision they will look foolish. If they do not there will be a revolt within the party and perhaps a more violent agitation from those that want a united Andhra Pradesh. If they remain firm on the creation of Telangana they are sure to have to deal with other equally belligerent movements for separate states from other parts of the country. The Congress party is in a quandary and they will have to tread very carefully lest they inflame the whole of the country. It is a particularly uncomfortable situation for the leadership in Delhi. This is one time no one would like to be in the shoes of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi.

Update 11.12.2009: The proverbial s**t has hit the fan and there are demands galore for states all around – Bodoland from Assam to Gorkhaland from West Bengal to Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh from Uttar Pradesh to Vidarbha from Maharashtra. Within Andhra Pradesh there is now a demand for a Greater Ryalseema state away from Andhra Pradesh. This could also be political brinkmanship and could be an effort to force the center to withdraw the proposed state of Telangana. It is true that the whole thing has boomeranged. There is no end to creating smaller states. The government should not only withdraw the proposal for the state of Telangana but also pass a resolution for a moratorium on smaller states for the next fifty years. In this all political parties must come together. This will not be easy but to save the country from any more unrest something concrete needs to be done and political parties must rise above narrow, short term political gains to look at this problem. Because if this is a problem for the Congress led coalition today it could be a problem for another coalition that may come to power sometime in future. This thirst for smaller states must be taken care of now.

Update 12.12.2009: Telangana has been put on hold for now. The protests continue. The Congress government believes that these protests will peter down after sometime and then they will carry out what they had promised. However, Pranab Mukherjee has tried to put across that Telangana does not mean that demand for other smaller states shall be accepted. Now there is a demand for a Maru Pradesh out of Rajasthan and Saurashtra out of Maharashtra apart from Vidarbha. The situation is getting out of hand.

Update 23.12.2009: That  the Central government is completely out of depths, is evident from the fact that today the Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram has announced that ‘further consultations need to be made with all political parties’ before taking a final decision. This means that Telangana has been put on the back-burner for the time being. The Telangana region is simmering and news is that KCR has submitted his resignation to the speaker of the Lok Sabha. He has also called for a 48 hour bandh in Telangana. Earlier the Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh was burning as there was serious discontent among the people there. This is a tricky situation. The problem is compounded when one finds that Hyderabad is bound to go to Telangana were the state created. The lack of firmness by the Center has compounded the problems.

There is another problem on the horizon. There was a committee instituted by the prime minister on the question of autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The committee has recommended  autonomy for the state. While this may be welcomed by the valley, the people in Jammu and Ladakh may not like this idea as this is a move meant to appease the people of the valley. Besides other parts of the country may also demand autonomy – most notably parts of North East. There may be other states that may ask for autonomy. It amazes me as to the unprofessional attitude of the ruling Congress Party, lacking in political acumen. They seem to be reacting to situations in a knee-jerk manner. This does not bode well for the country.

Update 6.01.2010: The Center has started to dilly-dally. There was an all-party meet and that remained inconclusive. The Telangana issue has been put on the backburner. Most parties of Andhra Pradeh do not want a Telangana except for the TRS. Chandrashekhar Rao is feeling betrayed. Andhra remains on a boil. It will take sometime for things to settle down.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2009 8:56 pm

    I highly enjoyed reading this post, keep up creating such interesting articles.

    • February 2, 2010 12:08 pm

      Simply going by the news articles does not provide you with any actual information.
      The andhra controlled media is completely hellbent to weaken the telangana issue.
      Actually telangana issue is no more a party issue. It has long gone into the hands of telangana people mostly villagers. Every village in telangana now resounds with demand for separate state. It has stong grass root support. I knew from a friend of mine who is a doctor, that the poor villagers have even stopped going to andhra doctors and are pushing my friend, who is still a resident to take care of them over his superior, who is andhra.
      And the most astonishing thing is the protests are largely peaceful, kind of non-cooperation and civil disobedience.
      People are volunteering to conduct stage dramas and ballads on streets. They are having community lunches and dinners on the main roads and highways everyday. This been happening since atleast 40 days.
      But the media is only highlighting news when some rowdy incident or suicide in the city occurs. All the village news are only covered in local and district editions.
      History seems to be repeating but telangana people remember past betrayals and political dramas. It is not easy this time.

      • sharma24 permalink*
        February 2, 2010 2:22 pm

        I am sure that the movement has grass root support as you say, but as a matter of principle I am opposed to smaller states. What is needed is effective administration and all round development. Smaller states do not necessarily mean better opportunities, and then the administrative costs burgeon, which such small states can ill afford. If Telangana is created there will be a host of demands including Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Kodagu, Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh and so on. There is no end to this bifurcation. I hope you understand my point and take a dispassionate view on this emotive issue.

  2. sravan permalink
    February 3, 2010 2:49 am

    Thanks for the reply.
    Instead of elaborating I give you this link
    It was nicely written by our Home Minister P Chidambaram in 2003 on why smaller states are recommendable. And I just today came across the article. It echoes my feelings to extreme.

    “Wake up to the states”

    I agree that small states cost burgeon but telangana is not one of the case. It is considerably large(size of california in popu.) and adequate in resources. It is only that its resources are being exploited to develop other regions. The admininstration completely is the hands of few castes from the andhra region and the politicians here I do not know how good they are, are certainly weakened by the majority and have little scope to flex the majority even if they hold nice portfolios. It is quite evident from what happened in 1973 when PV Narasimha Rao who is from telangana was CM. Atleast he was sincere and good enough to invoke the unimplemented safeguards for telangana. Result he was hauled out of his post by mockery of Supreme court judgement.

    • sharma24 permalink*
      February 4, 2010 11:02 am

      PV Narsimha Rao was not a bad prime minister at all, if he had not enmeshed all and sundry in the hawala scam.

      • February 4, 2010 11:25 am

        The final verdict was in favor of him. He got cleared off everything before he died. He may not be politically correct at times but certainly he has a place in Modern Indian History. More than many. He is the reason why we have seen Navodaya School System and educational reforms along with it, and not to forget the Economic liberalization that paved way to today’s media explosion. He is in that one way, I can say, paved way to his own destruction. Media sabotaged his credentials with out any tint of reverence. He definitely endured the wrath of the justice because he entertained probably a bunch of crooked fools that including few of his kith and kin. He sat silently while the Babri Masjid was dismantled, relying completely on the secular promise of a communal state government. He had his own black marks, but you cannot underscore the fact that he was a sincere politician and a visionary. It is evident if we see how he could garner a shrewd committee to review his own involvement in one of the scams.The committee went ahead and did not deter to cast doubts on the very PM that constituted it. Some say he a was a political failure as a PM, but I say he was politically correct.

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