Hyderabad/New Delhi: The Central government on Friday promised a decision as early as in one month on demands for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out a separate state of Telangana, after sidelining the thorny issue for three years.
But the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) that has been spearheading the agitation for Telangana statehood said it wasn’t satisfied with the promise, made after an all-party meeting in the national Capital, and called for a general strike in the southern state of 85 million people on Saturday.
“Nothing has come out of this meeting. He didn’t set a road map or anything,” said TRS leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao after the 90-minute meeting. “There is no seriousness or sincerity in their approach.”
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said he would brief the Central government on Friday’s all-party meeting, attended by the Congress party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), TRS, YSR Congress Party, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It was the third such consultation on Telangana in three years.
“This was the last all-party meeting on Telangana,” Shinde said. “There will be a good decision” within one month.
Telangana, which comprises Hyderabad and nine other districts, is home to 35 million people. The demand for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh—which comprises the regions of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema besides Telangana—dates back to the 1960s. Proponents of Telangana say the region’s economic growth has been hurt because of neglect by successive Andhra-dominated state governments.
Telangana has witnessed periodic unrest since November 2009. In December that year, the Centre promised steps towards the creation of a separate state, persuading Chandrasekhara Rao to call off an indefinite hunger strike, before backtracking on that assurance. Publicly, the Congress party that leads the United Progressive Alliance coalition at the Centre has neither supported nor opposed the demand for Telangana.
Former speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, K.R. Suresh Reddy, who was one of the Congress party’s state representatives at Friday’s all-party meeting, said the Congress was in favour of creating a Telangana state.
“Home minister clearly told the other parties Congress is for the division of the state.,” Reddy told reporters “Only after the home minister spelt out the stand of the Congress party, other parties came out with their stand on the issue. Seeing the mood in the party, I feel there will be a favourable decision (for Telangana)”, he said.
Telugu media reported that the other Congress party representative at the meeting, Gade Venkat Reddy, supported keeping Andhra Pradesh united.
“Shinde told the meeting that the Congress party is in favour of two states, but that was not the stand of the Central government,” Kadiyam Srihari, representative of the TDP, told regional news channel Etv2.
Legislators belonging to the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions have opposed the creation of Telangana, mainly out of concern over the potential loss of Hyderabad, the state’s main revenue generator. The TRS says it will accept nothing less than a separate state with Hyderabad as its capital.
“When a decision is taken, some will be satisfied, some will not be,” Shinde said, appealing to the people of Andhra Pradesh to stay calm on the issue before a decision is announced on the Telangana statehood issue.
Andhra State and Telangana were combined to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956 under a “gentlemen’s agreement” between leaders of the two regions. At the time, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru likened the merger to a marriage, with divorce possible if the partners find it difficult to live with each other.
Besides the TRS, the Communist Party of India and the BJP have supported Telangana statehood. The CPM and Majlis want Andhra Pradesh to remain united. The TDP, headed by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, informed the home minister at the meeting that it was “not opposed” to the creation of a Telangana state.
Whatever the Centre decides is likely to meet with resistance, given the divisions along regional lines within Andhra Pradesh, according to analysts.
“The Congress party has made a mess out of the issue. They have won two elections by promising Telangana and they have gone back on it each time,” said B.G. Verghese, a political analyst and visiting professor at the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research. “In a way, every party is responsible for the negativity that has come about the issue. One has to decide one way or the other, it cannot keep going on and on.”