The political temperature in Andhra Pradesh has elevated considerably in the span of past two days. Ten Congress members of Parliament have submitted their resignation letters while 73 legislators from the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party, too, have taken that step. Other parties, too, have joined in. If the resignations are accepted, it will lead to political turmoil.
The problem is that of the general indecisiveness of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. In the case of the Telangana issue, it is compounded by its inability to make accurate political calculations. The original sin, if it can be called that, was to say yes, however it may be interpreted now, for a separate state. But no sooner had the Union government said yes (in December 2009) than it realized its “mistake” and went about damage control in a roundabout fashion. It called for all-party meetings, consensus on the issue, appointed a committee to look into the matter and so on. In the eyes of those who demanded a separate Telangana—mainly spearheaded by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS)—this smacked of going back on a promise, if not a betrayal.
The original “yes” came in the wake of deteriorating law and order situation in Andhra Pradesh. It was that moment of weakness—one that could have been handled with a bit of firmness for there was no reason for panic—that has led to the present situation. A decisive yes or a no would have ended the matter. Not doing that has allowed the problem to fester. Today, the TRS and other protagonists of the demand have created such a climate in the Telangana region, that representatives across the political spectrum feel threatened if they do not agree with the idea of Telangana. This is not coercion in the dictionary sense of the word but something else: the delegitimization of all other options. It has the makings of a very difficult political situation, one that cannot go away or be wished away merely by procrastination.
The idea of separate states and India’s experience in working smaller states has been a mixed one. Some states have done well, others have not. So a simple catch-all formula that small states are likely to be better governed or administered more effectively remains unproven. The champions of Telangana need to understand that.
Telangana: a problem of procrastination? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org