Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh’s remark on Thursday that a decision on Telangana cannot be delayed “anymore” has raised expectations that Friday’s scheduled meeting of the party’s Core Group will finally take a call on the future of Andhra Pradesh, even though the ensuing process could take a while.
Mr Singh, who recently took charge of the party’s affairs in the troubled southern State, while saying that both options were still on the table – status quo or carving out Telangana — promised that there would be “no ambiguity” in the decision, when it is finally taken.
Hinting that the contours of whatever emerges would take a while to sharpen, he added that the UPA allies would also be consulted and, in case, the government takes the plunge to form Telangana, the opposition parties will have to be taken on board as it would require amendment of the Constitution.
On Friday, when the Congress Core Group gathers here, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, PCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana and Deputy Chief Minister Damodar Rajanarsimha will be present. Mr Singh, when he visited Andhra Pradesh last week, had asked the three men to prepare alternative roadmaps on the strategy the party and the government could adopt, keeping in mind the possibility that both options were still open.
Of course, what makes the issue even more complicated is the fact that while Mr. Reddy favours a united State, his deputy wants Telangana.
Apart from members of the Core Group, others who will be at the meeting will be Mr. Singh and his predecessor, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and, possibly, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Over the last fortnight, the UPA government has finally begun to show a sense of urgency in closing an issue that opened up when P. Chidambaram, as Home Minister, announced on December 9, 2009 that the government was willing to carve out Telangana. In the intervening three-and-a-half years, Mr Chidambaram’s announcement first sparked off protests and resignations in the Andhra and Rayalseema regions. Taken aback, the Centre had then set up the Srikrishna Committee to go into the pros and cons of division of the State, triggering off violent demonstrations across Telangana.
Now, with general elections – that coincide with State elections in Andhra Pradesh – due less than a year away, there is a compelling reason for the UPA government to act.
In 2009, the Congress did not just retain the State, it won a whopping 33 Lok Sabha seats. If the status quo is maintained, party sources say the Congress’s score could be less than 10; on the other hand, if Telangana is created, it could hope to win double that number across the three regions, thereby lessening the possible losses.
The creation of Telangana would therefore, clearly be electorally expedient, especially at a time when the Congress is bracing itself for a sharp decrease in its share of Lok Sabha seats.
But what has kept the government thus far from taking the plunge is its possible repercussions in other parts of the country.
The chief among these concerns is the anxiety that dividing Andhra Pradesh could trigger demands from regions such as Gorkhaland and Bodoland for statehood, events with national security implications.