Consultations continue on status of Hyderabad

The UPA government has decided to honour the commitment it made on December 9, 2009 to carve out a separate State of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, senior party and government sources told The Hindu.

“The die is cast,” a government source said, “as far as the creation of Telangana is concerned,” even though last-minute consultations continue on the ultimate status of Hyderabad and whether two districts of Kurnool and Anantapur from the Rayalaseema region should be added to Telangana to create two States, with 21 Lok Sabha seats apiece.

The key issue, of course, is to address the apprehensions of those from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions who have, over the years, made substantial investments in Hyderabad, geographically located within the Telangana region. “Some safeguards have to be put in place,” a government source said, “to allay the fears of these people that their investments will be safe.”

One suggestion is to make Hyderabad a union territory for a period of 10 years, with land, law and order and, perhaps the civic bodies, under the overall supervision of the Lt. Governor, the representative of the Centre, as in the case of Delhi.

Three reasons, Congress sources added, eventually weighed in favour of Telangana. One, in the event of a BJP-led NDA coming to power and it announcing that it will divide Andhra Pradesh, the Congress would have to support it: it makes more sense, therefore, to carve out a new State and take the credit for something that it had announced it would do in 2009. Two, the Congress did not eventually want to be seen as going back on a commitment it had made publicly.

Three, electoral considerations: by creating Telangana, the Congress will not only ensure it neutralises the Telangana Rashtra Samiti — which would then become a partner — and deprive the BJP, which has announced its support for the T project, of an election issue, but it would also be in a position to win a majority of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the region, along with the TRS. In the rest of the State, regardless of whether it keeps Andhra Pradesh united or divided, it sees itself in the third position behind Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). In the last general elections in 2009, the Congress won 33 of the 42 seats across the three regions of the State. The calculation is that only by creating Telangana can it minimise its losses, winning around 20 instead of 33, instead of being reduced to just a handful of seats.

The Congress’s strategy is to ensure that as few seats as possible go to the BJP as it believes that most other parties in Andhra Pradesh will find it hard to back a BJP-led government after the elections for fear of alienating the Muslims.

Now, Telangana decision will go to CWC

Meanwhile, the first step, party sources say, will be to get the decision to create Telangana endorsed by the Congress Working Committee (CWC), something that should happen before the end of the month. At last week’s Congress Core Group meeting, it was decided to have a few more meetings before calling the CWC: at that meeting, one of the participants had said that Telangana had “the upper hand” even though in politics, anything could happen.

If the CWC endorses the decision, it has to go next to the Union Cabinet from where it goes to the President, who would then send it to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. However, government sources stressed that the approval of the State Assembly is not mandatory: it is only to elicit the “views” of the MLAs. Indeed, if a reply is not received within a prescribed time, then it can go to Parliament for approval. It is only after that is done that the various ministries will get into the act to work on the details of separation, such as cadre allocation.

Finally, the pro-T lobby in the Congress was also able to address the concerns of those who had objected to the creation of a separate State by saying it would give Maoist activity a boost by pointing out that of the eight districts in the State deemed to be affected by Left-Wing Extremism by the Union Home Ministry, four — Adilabad, Karimnagar, Khammam and Warangal — are in the Telangana region, while the other four — East Godavari, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram — are in the other region.