Hyderabad/ Delhi: Andhra Pradesh confronted a political crisis on Monday after most Congress party members of Parliament (MPs) and state lawmakers from the Telangana region sent in their resignation letters, escalating the campaign for a separate state and mounting pressure on the Centre to introduce a Bill that would clear the ground for statehood.
In New Delhi, eight Congress members of the Lok Sabha—Ponnam Prabhakar, G. Vivekanand, Madhu Goud Yaskhi, S. Rajaiah, P. Balram Naik, M. Jagannath, K. Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy, and Sukender Reddy Gutha—were joined by Rajya Sabha member K. Keshava Rao in offering to quit their seats.
In Hyderabad, 39 Congress members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) also handed in their resignation letters, snubbing chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy who had urged restraint. Thirty-four Telangana MLAs belonging to the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) also resigned from the 294-member assembly.
Political crisis: Congress lawmakers address the media in Hyderabad on Monday. Photograph by AP
The Congress MLAs who quit included 11 ministers who also resigned their cabinet berths, according to PTI. Minister for major industries Geeta Reddy told Mint she had offered to give up her cabinet post, and so had “most” other Telangana ministers, but Mint could not independently ascertain the number.
As Union home minister P. Chidambaram said in New Delhi that the situation in the state remained under control and the resignations had not come as a surprise, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) immediately called a 48-hour general strike starting midnight Tuesday.
Activists will block trains passing through the Telangana region on 8-9 July, TRS president K. Chandrasekhara Rao said. On 10 July, they will take to the streets in the region, barring Hyderabad, to set up makeshift community kitchens that will serve food to Telangana supporters.
“We will not relent till Delhi draws a roadmap for a separate Telangana and introduces a Bill in Parliament,” Chandrasekhara Rao said.
The TRS has been spearheading the Telangana campaign on the ostensible grounds that the region’s economic growth has been stunted because of decades of neglect by successive state governments dominated by politicians from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
On 9 December 2009, the Centre said it would initiate a process for granting statehood to Telangana, persuading Chandrasekhara Rao to call off an indefinite hunger strike. On 23 December, it said more consultations were needed before a consensus could be reached on the carving out of a separate state from Andhra Pradesh.
The mass resignations, which have not been accepted or rejected, may not imperil the state government immediately, but could put the administration in a “moral and political predicament to further continue in office, excluding a sizeable representation” from the Telangana region, said K. Nageshwar, an independent member of the legislative council and a professor of journalism at Osmania University.
Telangana, which accounts for 35 million of Andhra Pradesh’s 85 million population according to the latest census, sent 50 of the Congress party’s 155 MLAs to the state assembly in the 2009 elections.
Chidambaram said the mass resignations had not come as a surprise given that the Telangana MPs and MLAs of the party had voiced their intention to quit on 4 July.
“I don’t think we need to get alarmed about this development,” he told reporters in Delhi. “They have given expression to a view that they have held—a strongly held view—but I think we will be able to persuade them to be patient and allow the consultative process to continue.”
“We have to bring everybody on board,” he continued. “There are very strong views of a very large number of people. We are trying to work out a consensus... I understand their impatience. But these are complex issues. We will try to expedite the consultation. We will try to take a final view but these are extremely sensitive, complex issues.”
The mass resignations may not immediately give way to a constitutional crisis, given that a decision on whether to accept or reject them will likely be put in abeyance by legislative officers, but it risks creating a political and legislative vacuum and governance void, analysts said.
The Telangana campaign “has taken a very significant turn”, said Madabhushi Sridhar, a professor at the NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad. “It exerts pressure on the ruling party at the Centre and (in) the state (to act).”