Consultations with eight recognised political parties of Andhra Pradesh on the issues arising out of the recent agitations in the State in favour of and against the separate state of Telangana began here today. In his opening statement at the meeting, the Union Home Minister, Shri P. Chidambaram stressed the need to maintain peace and harmony in the State while the consultations take place. Following is the text of his statement :-

“I welcome you to this consultation on the issues arising out of the recent agitations in Andhra Pradesh in favour of and against a separate State of Telangana.

We have invited the eight recognised political parties in Andhra Pradesh to this consultation. The founding fathers believed – and we believe – that parliamentary democracy is the best form of representative government and has the capacity to find solutions to all issues and problems. Debate, discussion and consultation are the best means to resolve differences and find answers. Political parties are integral to a parliamentary form of democracy. The wishes and aspirations of the people are reflected by the political parties. The argument that parliamentary democracy can be sustained without political parties is an argument that has to be stated to be rejected. Each one of you represents a recognised political party and, therefore, I would respectfully submit that each one of you bears a responsibility to help in resolving the differences and finding appropriate answers.

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding the issues that have brought us here today. There is a misconception that the Central Government acted in haste; that the political parties were not consulted; and that I, as Home Minister, acted as an individual. As you are well aware, none of these misconceptions is supported by facts, but I shall not waste your time refuting these misconceptions.

You are all aware of the long history behind the demand for a separate State of Telangana. It is sufficient to refer to the report of the States Reorganisation Commission; the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956 and the amendment of Article 371(1) of the Constitution; the Six Point Formula of 1973; and the introduction of Article 371D in the Constitution. More recently, in the elections to the State Assembly of Andhra Pradesh held in May, 2009, the political parties outlined their positions in their respective election manifestos. All this is in the public domain.

The Central Government was concerned when an agitation was started in November, 2009 demanding a separate State of Telangana. Quite rightly, the political parties in Andhra Pradesh were the first responders to the agitation. You are aware of the proceedings of the Business Advisory Committee of the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly on December 7, 2009 followed by the proceedings of the all party meeting convened by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh later in the evening of the same day.

I wish to reiterate that the first statement on behalf of the Central Government was made on the basis of the minutes of the all party meeting held on December 7, 2009.

It is true that the situation on the ground has altered significantly since the all party meeting of December 7, 2009 and the first statement on behalf of the Central Government on December 9, 2009. Taking note of the altered situation, on December 23, 2009, the Central Government promised to hold wide ranging consultations with all political parties and groups in Andhra Pradesh. It is therefore that we have convened this meeting of the recognised political parties. As stated in my letter to you, the agenda is to “deliberate on the mechanism and lay down a road map for the consultations.”

I urge each of the political parties represented here to show accommodation and goodwill. Ultimately, you must find the answers and you must help the Central Government find a solution. The agenda for this meeting may appear limited, but I am confident that if we take one step at a time we will, eventually, find a solution. I request you, therefore, to give your views on the agenda. What is the mechanism that you visualise for the consultations with all political parties and groups in Andhra Pradesh? What is the road map for such consultations?

While we deliberate on these issues and take forward the process of consultations, we must recognise the fundamental importance of restoring normalcy in Andhra Pradesh. There must be a halt to agitations and bandhs. Law and order must be maintained. Children must go to schools and colleges. People must be allowed to carry on their normal day-to-day activities. Government must be able to focus on development and the welfare of the people. It is in the interest of all sections of the people of Andhra Pradesh that peace and harmony prevail while the consultations take place. I wish to caution all political parties that there are forces waiting on the wings who ridicule the parliamentary form of democracy and who would be happy if we collectively fail to find answers to the issues that concern us, and we should not give any room for these forces to gain strength or credence.

Let me conclude by saying that let us demonstrate the strength of our democracy and the capacity of our political parties to resolve differences and find solutions. I shall now ask each of the political parties to place their views on the agenda before us.”