"Leaders should convey the message that division will spur growth"

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who played a leading role in the decision to create Telangana, party sources said, has firmly told senior Central leaders from the Andhra and the Rayalaseema regions that it is their responsibility to aggressively sell the announcement by stressing to their constituents that the division of the State will accelerate the process of development. Simultaneously, she has told them to reassure the people that Andhra-Rayalaseema will get its fair share of resources and all possible help from the Centre in building a new capital.

A day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) made the momentous move on Telangana, triggering a wave of protests and threats of resignations from local party leaders in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, Central ministers from the region found themselves in a tough spot — with very slim chances of their re-winning their Lok Sabha seats. One account suggests that of the 25 Parliament seats that will fall in this region, the party is not hopeful of retaining more than three or four.

It is for this reason that the Congress, hoping to minimise its losses, has not yet given up the idea of including two districts from Rayalaseema, Kurnool and Anantapur, in the new Telangana State, as indicated by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on Tuesday. Mr. Singh had said, in answer to a question, that if anyone from the area asked for the two districts to be joined to Telangana, they could address that request to the Group of Ministers that will be set up to oversee the sharing of resources between the two States. The two districts would contribute four Parliament seats.

Party sources say the principal reason for the continuing attempt is that it would politically weaken two of the Congress’s chief rivals, the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress: the leaders of the two parties, Chandrababu Naidu and Jaganmohan Reddy both belong to Rayalaseema. The other explanations being offered are that it will please the anti-Telangana All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, located in Hyderabad — till recently a UPA partner at the Centre — as these two districts have a substantial chunk of Muslims; that the people of these two districts will continue to have Hyderabad as their State capital; and that they won’t have a problem with getting water from Telangana. Finally, chances of the Congress’s winning the four seats from these two districts could go up.

Meanwhile, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao said on Tuesday that his party would take a decision on a merger with the Congress only after a Bill was passed in Parliament to form Telangana. Though he welcomed the Congress’s decision on Telangana, he said he would not celebrate till the Bill is passed.