New Delhi: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), already fighting fires on several fronts, including resurgent food inflation, may face hostile political reactions after a high-level panel favoured a compromise solution in which Telangana will only enjoy a special status without disturbing the existing contours of the state of Andhra Pradesh.
The B.N. Srikrishna committee was appointed in January last year to look into the demand for the creation of a separate Telangana state.
Also See The Six Options (PDF)
Though it offered six options, the five-member committee signalled its preference for a unified state, while it acknowledged the need to address the governance deficit—something that led to the creation of new states such as Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. It said creating a new state out of a linguistically unified one would set an unwanted precedent.
The political battle lines have been drawn, with the activists led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) rejecting the proposals and reiterating the demand for a separate state even while clashes were reported from Hyderabad between the police and pro-separatist student groups.
The dispute has boiled down to the status of Hyderabad, the existing commercial and political capital of the state. That may not dissuade investors.
“These events keep happening. In the long term, I don’t think it’s going to dent the image of Hyderabad and drive away future investors,” said Anjan Roy, adviser for economic affairs at Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “As long as the city is able to provide ideal conditions for doing business, people will go there and invest.”
The TRS, along with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Telugu Desam Party, boycotted the meeting convened by home minister P. Chidambaram to discuss the 461-page report. Representatives of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Communist Party of India, the Majlis Ittehadul-e-Muslimeen and the Praja Rajyam Party attended and decided to reconvene to further deliberate the proposals. The TRS declined to participate and has threatened to revive its agitation.
The report concluded that keeping the state “united” and creating a statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Council is the “most workable” option in the given circumstances and in the best interest of the “social and economic welfare of the people of three regions”.
“If you read the report carefully, you will find that the committee itself has rejected the first three options and termed them as non-practicable,” Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi after the meeting.
The suggestions are to maintain status quo; bifurcate the state into Seemandhra and Telangana with Hyderabad as a Union territory (UT) and the two states developing their own capital in due course; bifurcate the state into Rayala-Telangana and coastal Andhra regions with Hyderabad being an integral part of Rayala-Telangana; bifurcate the state into Seemandhra and Telangana with an enlarged Hyderabad metropolis as a separate UT; bifurcate the state into Telangana and Seemandhra as per existing boundaries with Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana and the other having a new capital; and keep the state united by providing definite constitutional/statutory measures for socio-economic development and political empowerment of Telangana, along with the creation of a regional council.
The committee said the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Seemandhra as per existing boundaries with Hyderabad as the capital of the former was the second-best option. But it added: “Separation is recommended only in case it is unavoidable and if this decision can be reached amicably amongst all the three regions.”
Pointing out that a united Andhra Pradesh option is being suggested for continuing the development momentum of the three regions and keeping in mind the national perspective, the report says the government should be able to convince the people that it is in the best interests of all. “It would not only give (a) fillip to other similar demands, but it will be for the first time, after the reorganization of states, that a political demand for dividing a linguistically constituted state would have been conceded,” the report said.
The government has been facing demands for smaller states from different parts of the country, including Gorkhaland in West Bengal, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Poorvanchal in Uttar Pradesh.
“The underlying cause is the elite capturing of our political process, which led to regional disparity in development,” according to Vinoj Abraham of Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies.
While the Praja Rajyam and the Left parties backed a united Andhra Pradesh, Congress MLA Uttam Kumar Reddy, who along with party colleague K.S. Rao attended the meeting, said: “Of all the options given, only option five is acceptable to us, which speaks of bifurcation of the state into Andhra and Telangana with Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana.”
According to two Congress leaders, the government is also considering an option to divide the state into two and keep Hyderabad as a common capital for a fixed period, giving enough time for the other state to build its capital. “The government will discuss this option also with the parties and activists,” said one leader, who did not want to be identified.
PTI and Amrit Raj also contributed to this story.