The weapon of resignations may be used to put pressure on Cong high command to hold, if not reverse, its decision on Telangana state.
Even as the central government moves swiftly on fulfilling the political and constitutional formalities for carving out the new state of Telangana, the political theatre of Andhra Pradesh witnesses multiple actions from several quarters. A section of political elite from Seemandhra region is reconciling with the reality. This is evident from the fact that Congress leaders from Rayalaseema region are speaking in many voices. While some of them prepare to use the weapon of resignations to put pressure on Congress high command to put on hold, if not reverse its decision, others demand that Kurnool may be made the capital of the left over Andhra Pradesh state. Kurnool was the capital of Andhra State before it merged with Hyderabad State to form the present Andhra Pradesh. However, the demand for separate Rayalaseema still lingers on. It is rather histrionic as the same set of leaders are making different demands at a time. This baffling behaviour only indicates the sense of helplessness.
Meanwhile, the anger in the streets of Seemandhra region continues to be displayed strongly. But, this is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Congress high command as it has to face such anger in this or that region. The political class is responding to the street anger. This could be interpreted in many ways. The Congress somersault earlier even after making the announcement of forming the state of Telangana on the floor of Parliament is still fresh in the minds of Seemandhra leaders. Perhaps, the recent threat of resignations is a last ditch effort to stall the process of Telangana formation. Their confidence in the political malleability of Congress high command is certainly not unfounded. This is precisely why the leaders of Telangana, including TRS supremo K Chandra Sekhar Rao, are keeping their fingers crossed.
The T leaders fear that there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip. Meanwhile, as the political decision for bifurcation is taken after prolonged procrastination and prevarication, several thorny issues are now cropping up. TDP leader N Chandra Babu Naidu, who lacked the courage to resist Telangana decision, makes a political demand for central funding of at least five lakh crores to build a capital for the other State on par with Hyderabad. The Seemandhra Congress leadership and the YSR Congress leadership have launched a political offensive against Chandra Babu Naidu that his support for Telangana has actually led to the decision for bifurcation. In fact, Chandra Babu Naidu and his party faced a similar attack from Congress Telangana leaders and the TRS that he was responsible for putting on hold earlier announcement on Telangana. Enthused by good show even in Seemandhra region after the T announcement, Chandra Babu Naidu now raises the demand for such a huge funding for new capital. Nothing wrong in having a wish list. But, political leadership should not loose pragmatism and invoke exaggerated aspirations in the people.
Hyderabad has not come up overnight to be replicated. This city was known for its grandeur even before the formation of united Andhra Pradesh state. The governments can create infrastructure, but, highly developed educational institutions, research institutions, industries cannot be created overnight. The capital needs to be evolved and the Centre should generously contribute for this. But, any comparison between Hyderabad which has over 400 years of history with the proposed new capital may serve the political agenda of someone but has a potential to create undesirable competition.
The city of Hyderabad is already the bone of contention between the supporters and opponents of Telangana. During the last five odd decades of its existence as the capital of united state, people from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema region developed economic and emotional relationship with Hyderabad. A generation has lived through this relationship. More so, Hyderabad is seen as land of opportunities and rightly so. This is a result of lopsided development model where development and capital got concentrated in one city. An attempt to repeat the same model with a focus on capital centred growth is leading to competitive demands for setting up the capital of the remaining Andhra Pradesh state. This is likely to become a bone of contention between coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Such portentous signs are already evident. If this controversy is not settled amicably, the demand for trifurcation of Andhra Pradesh state into three states with each region as separate State may strengthen.
On the other hand the central government has to answer many perplexing questions over its decision to make Hyderabad common capital. The devil lies in the detail. The centre decided to form Telangana state with 10 districts which include Hyderabad. Therefore the idea of making the city Union Territory does not find favour. The local leaders of Hyderabad will also oppose any move to make Hyderabad a Union Territory as such an entity lacks democratic institutions. It may also result in similar demands from other cities. Maharashtra is already witnessing such a controversy over Shobha De’s tweets.
This is also fraught with several other problems. The proposal to make Hyderabad common capital lacks clarity on several counts. Such a proposal certainly addresses emotional apprehensions in the minds of those who came to Hyderabad from regions other than Telangana. Such concerns became stronger in the wake of anarchic slogans during the course of agitation for separate Telangana state. But, the Centre has to answer many perplexing questions here. If Hyderabad is in Telangana state, how can government of some other state operate from a region in other state. Can Hyderabad infrastructure sustain two state governments. Hyderabad is geographically not contiguous with the Seemandhra region. Besides there is also a controversy over the revenues of Hyderabad as new capital cannot generate similar revenues.
The issue of sharing river waters also demand satisfactory resolution. The state of united Andhra Pradesh has a bitter experience of having water disputes with neighbouring states like Karnataka, Maharashtra. The projects in one state have to irrigate lands in other state. But, such problems are certainly not beyond peaceful solution; when countries can share rivers, why not two states. There is well laid out constitutional process to adjudicate on river water disputes. But, the political leadership should demonstrate political sagacity and statesmanship. Otherwise chauvinist demands may come up in either region, thus vitiating the relationship between two nascent Telugu states. The centre offers to answer all these issues when it comes to the drafting of the bill for formation of new state. The debate shall continue. So is the political posturing and at times political brinkmanship.
(The writer is a Member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council and Professor in the Department of Journalism, Osmania University.)