New Delhi: The Congress party’s leadership decision to soft-pedal the issue of statehood for Telangana, on the recommendation of the Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, has split the state unit of the party ahead of parliamentary as well as state elections due this year.
The state, which accounts for 42 members of Parliament (MPs), was crucial in enabling the Congress to emerge as the largest party in the 2004 elections. With its alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam losing political ground, Andhra Pradesh will again prove critical.
According to a senior Congress leader, who is familiar with the issue and did not want to be identified, the party leadership is expected to issue a statement saying it was not against creating a separate state but would consider it only after ensuring development of the region.
Political turmoil: Andhra chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Bharath Sai / Mint
However, a section of the party leadership is convinced this would cost them electorally. Pointing out that the Telugu Desam Party has formed an alliance with Left parties and Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Congress MP and party secretary Madhu Goud Yaskhi said the development plank would not work.
“People of Telangana have a strong resolve for a separate statehood. Congress is strong enough to face elections if the opposition is divided, but if they are united, the party will suffer,” warned Yaskhi, MP from Nizamabad, which falls in the Telangana region.
The region, which has been demanding separate statehood alleging negligence, has 17 Lok Sabha and 119 assembly seats. The Congress has eight MPs from the region. Senior leaders like S. Jaipal Reddy, V. Hanumantha Rao and K. Kesava Rao belong to this region.
However, Arun Kumar, an MP from coastal Andhra Pradesh, one of the three regions in the state, and also a Congress working committee member, said: “The CM (chief minister) was never opposed to Telangana, but this is not the right time (to bifurcate). He wants the lift irrigation projects to be completed. His stance is in the interest of the state.”
Political analysts, however, say that the division does not augur well.
“The people of Telangana believe that a separate statehood would get them more focused development. So, Congress has to make a categorical statement and take some well-meaning, positive steps towards that,” said Rama Brahmam, a professor of political science at the University of Hyderabad.
But he added that there could be changes in the political scenario as the election nears.