Home >Opinion >Online-views >Telangana: an undemocratic division

On Tuesday, the Lok Sabha voted to create the new state of Telangana by splitting Andhra Pradesh. The Bill was passed in the teeth of opposition from an elected legislature and a significant number of members of Parliament. In the end, it was a high-level, undemocratic, compromise between the Manmohan Singh government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that ensured the passage of the Bill. In the bargain, all democratic procedures, including a careful debate, were trampled. The blackout of proceedings in the Lok Sabha was just a small part of it all.

The truth is that Telangana was an issue that caught India’s political class in a bind. By a series of blundering steps—beginning with Union finance minister P. Chidambaram’s 9 December 2009 statement in favour of Telangana down to the histrionics in New Delhi in the past one week—the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, pushed themselves in a corner. At each step of this march towards folly, both parties tried to fine tune their calculations without sparing a thought about the consequences of such a divisive process.

The calculations were simple.

For the Congress, the allure of 17 Lok Sabha seats in the new province outweighed the future administrative and political consequences of creating a new state.

For the BJP, creating Telangana will obviate the need to address a painful issue if it forms the next government.

A losing proposition for everyone

It is unlikely that the Congress will reap any benefit from this division. In the Seemandhra region, it is least likely that it will win any of the 25 seats to the Lok Sabha. In the Telangana region, its political fortunes are tied to the goodwill of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the party that has championed the new state’s cause for years.

For the BJP, which does not have much of a presence in South India, tying itself to the Congress’s coattails won’t do it any good, either in Seemandhra or in Telangana. The party did not apply its mind to the issue. All it did was issue empty statements about “justice" to Telangana and Seemandhra.

Above all, the country has not gained anything. Telangana will require massive financial support from the Union government to keep it viable. There is no wishing this away as the history of the past two decades shows that all new states begin with a low revenue base and in spite of what they say, it is the Union government’s money that keeps them afloat.

To placate the residual state of Seemandhra some kind of special financial package will be implemented. But financial packages cannot undo the loss of geographic unity. Just look at the map of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh and one can see the coming problems. Hyderabad was centrally located and imparted some administrative cohesion. Seemandhra—from its north-eastern corner (Srikakulam) to its south-western edge (Anantapur)—looks to be an unwieldy state now.

The two major parties appear to gain little but that would be fine if the nation had gained something out of the bifurcation. Sadly, India stares at greater fiscal burden and another pair of bitter squabbling states.

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