Breaking the Centre’s long silence, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram declared on Wednesday that it was necessary to hold wide-ranging consultations with all political parties and groups on the issue of a separate Telangana and promised that the Centre would involve all sections in the process.

Mr. Chidambaram said the situation in Andhra Pradesh had altered after the Centre’s statement on December 9 that the process for formation of a separate Telangana State would be initiated. The statement was based on consensus that emerged at an all-party meeting convened by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah two days earlier. Subsequently, many political parties were divided on the issue and it was now important to restore peace and harmony, he observed, apparently referring to the violence in the State since November 29.

Mr. Chidambaram made no reference to his earlier statement for “moving an appropriate resolution in the State Assembly” or mentioned any effort to evolve consensus which, Telangana leaders feared, was impossible to achieve. Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K. Chandrasekhar Rao described Mr. Chidambaram’s latest statement as a betrayal of the Telangana cause by the Centre. Mr. Rao and another TRS MP, actress Vijayashanti, led nearly 36 MLAs and other elected representatives of various parties in announcing their resignations. Congress leaders from Telangana joined the TRS in calling for a 48-hour bandh in the region from Thursday. In contrast, the reaction in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, though not hostile, was not widely welcomed either.

Violence broke out in the Telangana region within hours of the Centre’s announcement. Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse a mob in Warangal. This led to a stampede that left one dead and several injured. The mob laid siege to the nearby Hanamkonda police station, but was chased away by the police. Nearly 20 vehicles were damaged on the Karimnagar-Hyderabad highway and a shop was set on fire in Godavari Khani. In the State capital, agitators stoned 14 buses and burnt a government office.

Mr. Rosaiah convened an emergency Cabinet meeting after which three Ministers representing different regions said Mr. Chidambaram’s statement was “clear, balanced and reflected the feelings of people of all the regions.”