Sonia says process to create the new State is under way

Even as Congress president Sonia Gandhi stressed on Saturday that the “process” to create the new State of Telangana is underway, central and State party leaders from Andhra Pradesh unhappy with the decision, are suggesting new formulae for the division of the State to the party committee headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

If Union Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has suggested trifurcation, Deputy Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly Bhatti Vikramark Mallu and party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury told the committee that three districts — Srikakulam, Vijaynagaram and Visakhapatnam —should be added to Telangana. All these voices are adding to the atmosphere of confusion, as the government appears unhurried about acting on the decision of the Congress Working Committee to create Telangana.

Talking to journalists, after the inauguration of the National Media Centre here, Ms. Gandhi in response to a question on the timeline for Telangana, was cautious: “The process is on. The Antony Committee is meeting people. The government, too, will be soon setting up a committee.” Her tone was cautious and she did not indicate when the process would be over. But the Central Ministers and Congress MPs from the Telangana region told The Hindu that they were confident that a Bill for the creation of the new State would be brought in the winter session.

As the uncertainty continues, Congress leaders from Andhra and Rayalaseema are still trying their hardest to get the best deal for these regions. Mr. Deo, for instance, in an eight page note, dated August 20, to the Antony Committee, suggested that since the CWC decision is “irreversible” the only way to end the current unrest is to “trifurcate” the State into Telangana, Andhra and Rayalseema: this, he contends, would create three geographically and culturally cohesive units, with 17, 17 and eight Lok Sabha seats.

Interestingly, he accuses Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad — who was general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh till recently— of “doing things in a pre-planned and clinical manner,” consulting only “a few selective leaders from Telangana and the PCC president.” He stresses that even though MPs and Central ministers from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions tried their hardest to get their views across, “these were futile exercises,” and that the people of the State believe that “a hasty decision was taken keeping in view only the results of ensuing elections… based on ..speculative and theoretical assessments.”

Mr. Deo has not spared Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana either who, he stresses, allowed their own “selfish interests” to override the concerns of the people of the State whenever they were called for consultations with the central leadership. It is, therefore, “unfair and mischievous” on the part of the two men, he says, now to publicly accuse MPs and Central Ministers from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of not doing enough to prevent the decision to divide the State. Mr. Deo charges the Chief Minister and the PCC chief also with “stoking the embers of discontent and engineering assaults on elected representatives.”

Mr. Mallu and Ms. Chowdhury, on their part, told the Antony Committee that if Srikakulam, Vijaynagaram and Visakhapatnam were added to Telangana, the new State would gain a seaport, the people of this area would be so pleased to have Hyderabad as their capital and that the 33 MLAs from here would also vote in favour of the resolution for Telangana in the Assembly, giving the Centre’s decision legitimacy, even though endorsement by the AP Assembly is not a constitutional requirement. Currently, the Telangana MLAs are outnumbered by their colleagues in the other two regions. The addition of the districts, these leaders told the committee, would also ensure that the Congress would be able to easily form the first government in Telangana when it is formed.