New Delhi/Hyderabad: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Wednesday appeared to backtrack on its commitment to carve a separate Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh, threatening a resurgence of violence as student groups and political parties called for a shutdown.
“A large number of political parties are divided on the issue. There is a need to hold wide-ranging consultations with all political parties and groups in the state,” home minister P. Chidambaram said in Delhi after several rounds of meetings involving senior cabinet ministers and key Congress leaders. “The government of India will take steps to involve all concerned in the process.”
Tension prevailed in 10 districts of the Telangana region including the state capital Hyderabad on Wednesday evening with shops and petrol stations closing as students and Telangana activists began road blockages. Traffic jams were witnessed across several towns and cities in Telangana.
Lost cause? Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao comes out of hospital after calling off his fast-unto-death. PTI
Political leaders from the Telangana region reacted sharply to the Union government’s perceived U-turn.
“The future of people in Telangana will not be decided by those in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema (the parts of the state opposed to the break-up),” said Madhu Goud Yaskhi, member of the Lok Sabha from Nizamabad. “We members of Parliament (MPs) from Telangana urge the Centre to fulfil the commitment made by the government, the (Congress) party and the party president (Sonia Gandhi).”
The state of Andhra Pradesh and the Congress party itself have been deeply divided on the creation of Telangana. MPs and state legislators from the Telangana region have insisted on the state being divided, in the face of opposition from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Of 299 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) in the state assembly, 119 belong to Telangana and 175 are from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.
The state was plunged into a major political crisis after the Union government on 9 December gave its approval for the formation of a new state, a Congress pledge that was included in its manifesto. This followed escalating violence in the state in the wake of a fast-unto-death by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, in support of separation.
Addressing the media on Wednesday night, Rao said: “The people of Telanganaregion have been betrayed again on statehood since the fresh statement of the Centre now does not specify any time frame for the consultations. On the one hand, the statement admits that the political parties are divided on the Telangana issue, and on the other hand, it stresses on the need for consultations among political parties.”
TRS called for a two-day shutdown, television channels reported.
Chidambaram defended his previous announcement, which had invited criticism from Congress allies in the UPA as well as MPs from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.
“At a meeting of all parties convened by the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh on 7 December, a consensus emerged on the question of formation of a separate Telangana,” Chidambaram said. “A statement was made on behalf of the Central government on 9 December on receipt of the minutes of the meeting. However, after the statement, the situation in Andhra Pradesh has altered.”
The minister appealed to politicians and student groups to maintain “peace, harmony and calm”.
The TRS chief appealed to the people of the region not to resort to agitations and to maintain restraint.
He said leaders from all the political parties in the Telangana region were likely to meet in Hyderabad on Thursday to take stock of the situation and evolve a strategy to take forward the process for a separate state.
However, saying that political consensus on carving out a Telangana state would not be possible even in another 100 years, Rao urged the Centre to begin the constitutional process for the break-up.
The students’ joint action committee in the universities of Osmania and Kakatiya, both in Telangana region, have called for a 48-hour shutdown of the region.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also accused the Congress of cheating the people of the Telangana region once again by going back on statehood, has called for a 72-hour shutdown. Senior BJP leader C. Vidyasagar Rao said the latest statement gives an impression that statehood to Telangana was not possible without political consensus. “This is nothing but cheating the people of Telangana region once again.”
Chief minister K. Rosaiah welcomed the Centre’s decision and urged the people to stop their agitations and help the state get back to normalcy and enable the government to take up developmental activities.
Allaying apprehensions on fresh law and order problems in the Telangana region, health minister Danam Nageder said the government will act firmly against elements that were resorting to law and order problems.
In its second consecutive term after a strong victory in the April-May assembly election, the Congress in Andhra Pradesh has been on shaky ground ever since former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was killed in a helicopter crash in September.
PTI contributed to this story.