Congress in a tangle ahead of report on creation of Telangana

Congress in a tangle ahead of report on creation of Telangana

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday held a meeting of senior ministers and government officials to discuss the potential political and administrative fallout of a report on carving a separate Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh. The report is due on Friday.

The divisive issue has led to disruptive protests in the past and even lawmakers from Singh’s Congress party, which heads India’s United Progressive Alliance government, do not agree on how to approach it.

The party’s troubles are compounded by the fact that it recently installed a new chief minister to head its government in Andhra Pradesh after a popular leader rebelled against the previous chief minister.

A five-member committee, headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, was appointed in February to examine demands for and against the creation of Telangana—comprising capital Hyderabad and adjoining districts—following a months-long agitation led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

The issue is expected to come to the boil again when the panel submits its report on Friday.

Police in Hyderabad said 23 companies of paramilitary forces have been allotted to Hyderabad and nearby Cyberabad police commissionerates as a precaution.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister discussed the issue with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister A. K. Antony, home minister P. Chidambaram and law minister M. Veerappa Moily, besides senior government officials.

“We hope things will be under control, whatever the report is," said an official in the Prime Minister’s Office who didn’t want to be named.

But Congress leaders admit the party is not clear on how to deal with the ramifications of the report.

“The issue is a very sensitive (one) and it’s true that the party is still in (a) dilemma over how to resolve this," said a Congress general secretary, who did not want to be identified.

Congress lawmakers from the Telangana region went on a hunger strike on Monday, forcing the new chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy to drop police cases against pro-Telangana students. They ended the fast on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, party leaders from the Rayalaseema region, including members of Parliament and the state assembly, held protest marches against Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation.

The Congress has already tasted the political implications of its flip-flop on the issue. Just a year after its landslide victory in Lok Sabha and state assembly elections last year, the party was trounced in the July byelections in Telangana, where TRS won 11 of the 12 seats.

The Congress is also concerned that the Telangana movement would inject fresh life into demands for smaller states elsewhere in the country, such as for Gorkhaland in West Bengal, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Poorvanchal in Uttar Pradesh.

A senior government official said irrespective of the recommendations of the Srikrishna committee, the final decision would be a political one.

“The commission may give various options to resolve the crisis. But the final decision will be a political one," the official said.

PTI contributed to this story.