By inviting political parties for another round of consultations on Telangana even while it is hurtling towards the direction of dividing Andhra Pradesh, the Centre has made its plans about the future of the State quite suspect.
As alleged by Seemandhra protagonists earlier, the Congress is again putting the cart before the horse. It did so earlier when it began the process of consulting stakeholders through the Antony Committee after the Congress Working Committee and the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for creation of Telangana. It is a different matter that the Committee was still born.
Also, consultations with political parties at this juncture appear strange, as the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister S. K. Shinde has completed two meetings and is scheduled to hold the third one on November 7. On the other hand, top officials are moving back and forth from Delhi for consultations at a speed uncharacteristic of the government to prepare the ground for the November 7 meeting.
Mr. K. Vijay Kumar, senior security advisor the Ministry of Home Affairs, is camping in Hyderabad since three days to discuss a range of issues from sharing of police assets to developing a joint mechanism to ensure the security of software establishments.
The Centre’s latest invitation to parties has drawn comparisons with the CWC’s sudden decision on July 30 in the sense that both are alleged to have been motivated by political considerations. While it was votes and seats that mattered then, the objective now appears to expose Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu for his ambiguous stand on Telangana.
Mr. Naidu’s is the only major party that has not stated in clear-cut terms whether it is in favour of unified Andhra Pradesh or separate Telangana. Indeed, it has given a letter in support of bifurcation, but Mr. Naidu is now singing the tune of that the Centre must render justice to Seemandhra before proceeding with the division. The Centre wants to pin him down to taking a stand and pre-empt him from riding two horses simultaneously.
This is the conclusion that can be drawn from the Home Ministry seeking suggestions from parties on various issues spelt out in the GoM’s Terms of Reference.
Centre's game plan
The less charitable inference is that the Centre is resorting to a game of deferring implementation of its decision on Telangana and bring to heel the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) which is in no mood to oblige the ruling party with the offer of merger until passage of a Bill in Parliament.
On the same plane, the Congress badly needs to do something to give an impression of broad-based consultations to its unilateral decisions that have totally alienated the party from the people in Seemandhra. This is also essential to get wider support in Parliament for the Constitutional amendment that would be necessary to deal with Article 371 (D).
Fear among ‘T’ people
Amid these fast-paced developments, there is fear among Telangana supporters that the Centre may take the issue back to Square One.
One indication is the Home Ministry’s individual letters which say that the GoM will interact with “representatives of your political party”.
The Congress and the Telugu Desam are sure to depute one leader each from Telangana and Seemandhra, who will speak in diametrically opposite voices and add to the confusion.