The Bharatiya Janata Party has welcomed Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s statement late on Wednesday night that the government was willing to initiate the process to carve out a separate State of Telangana, although the party blamed the government for not doing its homework and groundwork before making the announcement.
“The BJP welcomes the announcement by the government … although the decision has come late,” said senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu. But speaking in the Rajya Sabha a few hours earlier, Mr. Naidu was questioning the “propriety” of the Home Minister making a statement outside Parliament late at night before first taking the House into confidence.
However, it seems that Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani later effected a change in the party’s stance fearing that stress on “propriety” would send the wrong political message to supporters of the Telangana cause, currently embodied in Telangana Rashtra Samiti party chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao whose condition deteriorated on Wednesday as a result of the fast undertaken by him.
Any delay could have had serious consequences. Apparently, Mr. Rao talked to Mr. Advani on telephone on Thursday to thank him for his party’s support to the Telangana cause.
Mr. Naidu, who addressed the press, said the BJP supported the formation of smaller States in general on the basis of administrative efficiency and economic viability. However, because of lack of a full mandate and its various political alliances, the BJP had given up the cause of Telangana when it was in power at the Centre, as it was not on the agenda of its supporting party, the Telugu Desam Party.
It had also dropped the demand for a separate Vidarbha to be carved out of Maharashtra, as alliance partner Shiv Sena was against it. And, more recently, after supporting the idea of a separate Gorkhaland — it won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat on that basis — it almost dropped the “cause” as its Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh has since been thrown out of the party.
Was the BJP’s support for smaller States the result of political expediency and part of compulsion of coalition politics? Mr. Naidu said it was not, but political consensus was necessary.
The demand for Telangana dates back to several decades. In spite of the time available, the Centre had not prepared the ground for the decision and had not taken all stake-holders, including the people, into confidence. This was leading to problems as people were “naturally emotional.”
He demanded that the Centre “come clean on modalities” of creating the new State and share a roadmap with Parliament.
Should Hyderabad be part of Telangana? Mr. Naidu preferred not to answer this question as “tempers were running high [in Andhra Pradesh],” while admitting that geographically Hyderabad was indeed located within the Telangana region. Some of his other party colleagues, however, had no difficulty in saying Hyderabad must necessarily be part of Telangana.