New Delhi: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government signalled on Tuesday that it’s not backtracking on its commitment to the creation of a separate Telangana state, but shifted the onus of unravelling the tangle on political parties from Andhra Pradesh.
The Union government on Tuesday met members of eight political parties from Andhra Pradesh to discuss the creation of Telangana—an issue that’s led to almost a month of protests and agitations in the southern state by pro- and anti-Telangana activists.
“It is our earnest appeal that peace, harmony and law and order should be maintained in the state,” leaders of the eight parties said in a joint statement after the meeting that produced no breakthrough.
The meeting, called by home minister P. Chidambaram, was attended by the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist CPI(M) and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).
Chidambaram said at the meeting that the Centre’s announcement on 9 December to carve out a Telangana state had not been in haste. Pointing out that the demand for Telangana had a long history, Chidambaram urged the parties “to show accommodation and goodwill”.
“Ultimately, you must find the answers and you must help the central government find a solution,” he told the party leaders, who included Andhra Pradesh chief minister K. Rosaiah, TRS leader K. Chandrashekhar Rao, and actor-turned-politician and PRP leader Chiranjeevi.
In his opening statement, Chidambaram said the agenda of the meeting was to “lay down a road map for the consultations”. Although the agenda may appear limited, “if we take one step at a time we will, eventually, find a solution”, he said. Chidambaram’s announcement has created a divide in the state unit of the Congress after leaders from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema began protests against bifurcating Andhra Pradesh.
On 23 December, the Union government said it would hold consultations with all political parties and groups in Andhra Pradesh on the issue—a move those in favour of a Telangana state saw as backtracking by the government, triggering more protests.
Chidambaram told reporters on Tuesday that political parties in Andhra Pradesh “must work to resolve the problem and that is the only way to settle the issues in parliamentary democracy”. He said a mechanism has to be evolved to resolve the issue and the Centre would act on the sense of Tuesday’s meeting and take it forward within a “reasonable time frame.”
After the Tuesday meeting, Congress leaders from the Telangana region said the home minister’s initial remarks clarified that there had been no change in the party’s stance on creating a new state.
“It (the statement) explicitly says that the Centre’s commitment is unchanged and it was not going back on it,” said Madhu Goud Yaskhi, a Congress Lok Sabha member from Nizamabad. “(But) the government wants to do it after wider consultations.”
Chiranjeevi said he had made clear PRP stood for a united Andhra Pradesh. “It is only the beginning of the process,” he said, without elaborating.
The BJP criticized the government, saying it did not have a road map or mechanism for creating a Telangana state. “The meeting was an exercise in vain...but if the UPA brings a legislation to create the new state in (the) budget session, we will support it,” said Bandaru Dattatraye, a BJP leader who was at the meeting.
Protests continued, meanwhile, in Andhra Pradesh, crippling the transport system as pro- and anti-Telangana agitators blocked road and rail routes in the state.
The all-party Joint Action Committee (JAC) campaigning for a united Andhra Pradesh called for road and rail blockades in the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions while students and other agitators blocked routes in the Telangana region to press the demand for a separate state.
Santosh K. Joy and PTI contributed to this story.