We need more time to consult all stakeholders, says Chacko

The decision to create a separate Telangana State is “irreversible,” the Congress maintained on Wednesday, even as it added a caveat: it would not be possible to set a time frame for finishing the process.

“We want to complete the process as soon as possible and bring in the Bill in the winter session, but we can’t say what will emerge,” Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko said, responding to a question whether the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh would be completed before next year’s general election. “I can’t say whether the time frame will be before or after the elections,” he added

Mr. Chacko’s statement came on a day when Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, while announcing that the newly formed Group of Ministers — which will recommend division of assets and liabilities between the new and residuary States — would hold its first meeting on Friday, was silent on when its work would be completed. It was Mr. Shinde, a day after the Union Cabinet took the decision to create Telangana, announced that the GOM would submit its report within six weeks.

Government sources said that with the strike by power utilities’ employees entering its fourth day in the districts of coastal Andhra, resulting in a total blackout of the area, and no sign of the agitation abating, the Centre wants to send out the message that while it has begun work on Telangana, it will take more time to address the concerns of the people of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.

Indeed, Mr. Chacko repeatedly said on Wednesday, “We understand the genuine apprehensions about the future of Hyderabad and we, therefore, need more time to consult all stakeholders — it is a very sensitive issue.” The Congress, he asserted, had taken the “right decision at the right time” after due “application of mind” and on the basis of support for a new State from all political parties in Andhra Pradesh except the CPI (M) – ie., from the BJP, the Telugu Desam Party, the YSR Congress and the CPI.

However, if this mixed message emerged from the party and the government on Wednesday, Telangana’s Congress representatives say they have been assured by the party’s top leadership that the process of creating a new State will be completed before the general elections. For the sense is that only if Telangana became a reality before the State goes to the polls can the party hope to reap the electoral dividends of granting statehood.

Charge against CM

Simultaneously, the Telangana lobby is now openly accusing Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy of fuelling the agitation amidst continuing speculation that he could be replaced.

The Congress also asked the government to take “strong action” to restore power in Andhra, even if that meant resorting to the Essential Services Maintenance Act, even as it appealed to all political parties to help create an atmosphere in which dialogue is possible.

“The common people are suffering,” Mr. Chacko stressed, “the power shutdown is creating havoc and water supply has been affected.”