Autonomy for Telangana likely

Centre contemplates Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council model to resolve AP crisis

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA government) is believed to have decided to set up an autonomous Telangana regional council as a permanent solution to the raging demand for statehood.

A special financial package of Rs 20,000 crore is also under the consideration of the Centre, according to Congress sources. Though there is no official confirmation from the government, but political circles in Andhra Pradesh are abuzz with reports that the Congress leadership is in favour of emulating the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council model to resolve the Telangana issue.

In fact, the Justice B N Srikrishna Commission, had recommended for the creation of a statutory Telangana regional council to address the core socio-economic concerns of the backward region even while maintaining the unity of Andhra Pradesh.

“This is the most workable option in the given circumstances and in the best interests of the social and economic welfare of people of all the three regions in the state,” a five-member panel said in its report in January last year.

According to sources, the UPA leadership is convinced about the efficacy of this formula in assuaging the ruffled feelings of the statehood supporters.  Already, there is a growing anger among the supporters of  Telangana and within the party over the “inordinate delay” in taking a decision on the contentious issue.

Reports of autonomous council and a financial package assume significance in view of the March 18 by-elections to six Assembly constituencies in the volatile region.  The  Centre has given clear indications of its unwillingness to bifurcate AP because such a move could trigger similar demands for smaller states across the country.

Given the bitter regional divide in the state, the UPA leadership is believed to be veering round to a “middle path” that could satisfy the aspirations of all the three regions—Telangana, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.

The proposed regional council, with a separate budgetary allocation, is expected to boost the development of the backward region. It will be headed  by a  chairman who will have the status of a deputy chief minister.

Speculation is growing bigger in political circles that former APCC chief D Srinivas, who was recently nominated to the Legislative Council, may be appointed chairman of the Telangana council.

Though the Telangana protagonists have made it clear that nothing short of a separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as the capital will satisfy the people of the region, the Centre , however, is likely to push for the autonomous council to redress the long-standing demand.

Similar councils are likely for the other two regions also. Aware of the strong undercurrent of statehood sentiment across Telangana, the Congress leadership may, however, continue its efforts to achieve political consensus on the demand for a separate state. It will cite the lack of consensus as the reason for not granting the statehood at this juncture.

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