Redrawing India's map

Chidambarams Telangana announcement spells renewed challenge to linguistic states

Redrawing India's map

The judgment only upheld the existing practise that people of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions – besides Telangana where Hyderabad is situated - can also be recruited for police department posts in Hyderabad city.

Politically discounted Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), sensing an opportunity, whipped up a frenzy in Telangana saying the verdict would further hit job opportunities of locals. He gave a call for ‘jail bharo’ and to ‘drive out’ people of other regions of AP, from Hyderabad. He went on to fast unto death.
Contrast this with the void left by the late Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, the previous AP chief minister who opposed Telangana. The opportunity that KCR sensed and seized early proved to be a huge success. That’s as far as making the Centre blink in favour of separate Telangana.

 With that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has brought upon itself a daunting challenge: near revolt by its MLAs and MPs from Rayalaseema and Andhra, violence across these two regions, including in the generally peaceful cities such as Vishakhapatnam and Tirupati, besides revival of the demand for statehood from at least 10 regions of the country.

 Like its 40-year checkered history, the road to statehood for Telangana is going to be hurdle-ridden as the other two regions of AP are strongly opposing it. What is of greater concern, say observers, is not the resignations but widespread violence, reports that naxalites and anti-social elements may infiltrate to fuel the fire and speculation that chief minister K Rosaiah’s detractors in the Congress are trying to spur the anti-Telangana agitation.

While the administrative procedures for granting statehood may take over a year, the prevailing tension will require the UPA government to summon all its courage to take any decision on the imbroglio.

When Congress high command took the decision, without consulting UPA partners, to initiate the process for a new state, it perhaps did not anticipate a backlash in AP or a revival of the  demand for new states. Perhaps, the Centre was pushed to the wall considering KCR’s deteriorating health.

 As there is fear of violence escalating - MPs and MLAs themselves say they are afraid of going to their constituencies – the immediate task before the Centre is to cool the situation. It will buy time to calm frayed tempers. Like the near-midnight Telangana announcement by Home minister P Chidambaram on December 9, for a party that is in power both in the state and at the Centre, it should not be a major problem to tackle the tangle. But, Congress is faced with a weak CM and largely uncooperative ministers and party MLAs in AP.

Jewel in crown
There is also the problem of Hyderabad. It is really this AP showpiece and pride which is the main cause for the two regions opposing the bifurcation. Both, particularly coastal Andhra, has huge business interests in the IT hub, which nestles in the heart of Telangana!

Against this backdrop, it is difficult to visualise a solution to the vexed issue at this point of time. One AP observer says the solution lies in the division of AP into three and giving statehood to all three. Clearly, Congress would not like to do that.
 As for legal procedures, the AP legislature will be asked to approve the resolution by a simple majority, which too is not mandatory under the Constitution. The Congress would buy time to build a consensus as the AP government is in no position to move the amendment with tempers running high and TDP and Praja Rajyam too opposing a new state.

Getting a Bill passed in Parliament with two thirds majority is also not going to be easy as the UPA itself is divided on the issue of smaller states. Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Mamata Banerjee’s TMC are opposed to more states, while Opposition CPM and Shiv Sena are also against.

However, mere signs that Telangana may not happen is enough to set off another violent agitation, which the state government and the Centre will find difficult to quell.
More the merrier?

As for the perception that the country is being fragmented, Balveer Arora, professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, denies this. He told Deccan Herald: “The country can ill-afford to ignore the  economic and human costs of the agitation for new states. I see no harm in increasing the number of states to at least 35 in a country of our size”.

Does the justification for forming new states of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh hold good for Telangana? Arora says the first two states were a result of long-standing demand and people’s aspirations as in the case of Telangana. According to him, there is need for another State Reorganisation Commission to examine the new state demands.

‘Linguistic basis must’
CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri asserts that linguistic basis for reorganisation of States should not be diluted. “Creation of a separate State is not the solution to address the problem of non-development. What is required is planning and budgetary support.”
 What is the next course then? The issue may be put on the backburner but the Centre cannot go back on its commitment on Telangana although it may take time to become a reality.

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