Former Supreme Court Judge B.N. Srikrishna appears to be the frontrunner to head the judicial committee being considered by the Centre to go into the Telangana issue.

Sources said the chances of his name getting cleared at the highest level of the government as well as the Congress party are brighter, adding that the names of other former judges of the Supreme Court like Justices Tarun Chatterjee, Shivaraj Patil and A.R. Lakshmanan were also considered.

The committee will keep as basis the statement made by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on December 9, 2009, that “the process of forming the State of Telangana will be initiated and an appropriate resolution moved in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.”

It will try to evolve a framework for reaching political consensus, examine the feasibility (of the process on Telangana), and go into the modalities to be worked out in this regard and the time-frame required.

The committee, which will elicit the views of various stakeholders on the issue, is also likely to touch upon important aspects like the sharing of Krishna and Godavari river waters, natural resources, the fate of Hyderabad if Telangana is formed, resettlement of government officials, and the issue of long-time settlers of the Andhra/Rayalaseema regions in Telangana areas.

Mr. Chidambaram, who had spoken about the setting up of the committee here on Thursday without revealing its exact composition, added that an announcement in this regard would be made by next week.

A senior Union minister claimed that the announcement about the committee was deliberately made on Thursday to further cool down the tense atmosphere in Andhra Pradesh, as the Telangana Joint Action Committee had set January 28 as the deadline on the issue, failing which they threatened to force the acceptance of resignation letters of MPs, MLAs, MLCs and other elected representatives from the region.

Correcion

The sixth paragraph of a report “Srikrishna front runner for Telangana panel” (January 30, 2010) was “When the then Nizam State was merged with Andhra Pradesh (which was carved out of the Madras Presidency), a gentlemen’s agreement was reached between the two Chief Ministers that people from Andhra/Rayalaseema would not buy property in Telangana, the sources said.” A reader said there was no such thing.

The story was based on comments made by a Congress Working Committee member and a member of the Rajya Sabha. The Gentlemen’s Agreement 1956 was signed on February 20, 1956, by the then Chief Ministers of Andhra and Hyderabad (Nizam State) states. In that, under the sub-heading — A. Regional Standing Committee – point number 6 (8) says “Sale of agricultural lands in Telangana area to be controlled by the Regional council.” According to the MP, many authors have written books on the Gentlemen’s Agreement and interpreted that particular point to state that no one, particularly those from Andhra/Rayalaseema regions, could purchase property in the Telangana areas without the approval of the Regional Council. This permission was necessary as leaders were apprehensive that cash-rich real estate developers and landlords (in Andhra/Rayalaseema) might exploit backward and poor farmers/people in the Telangana regions after the merger of the two States and buy their land at throwaway prices.