The recent meeting of Andhra Pradesh’s recognised political parties convened by the central government might have failed to produce anything remotely resembling a ‘consensus’ on the Telangana issue. Yet, as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has made clear, there is no acceptable alternative to the democratic process of holding consultations to narrow down and resolve differences on vital issues — by exercising leadership, showing accommodation and goodwill, and maintaining peace and harmony. No reasonable person can disagree with Mr. Chidambaram’s prescription that “children must go to schools and colleges, people must be allowed to carry on their normal day-to-day activities, the government must be able to focus on development and the welfare of the people” and that it is in the interest of all sections of the people of the State that “peace and harmony prevail while the consultations take place.” The immediate imperative is the cooling down of passions and an end to the agitations, bandhs, acts of unruliness, and violence that have brought south India’s largest State virtually to its knees. To their credit, the eight participant-parties have agreed on this vital point in a signed statement. This should encourage the central and State governments in their efforts to find a way out of the impasse within a “reasonable time frame.”
The problem today is not so much that the major political players are divided on the issue of breaking up Andhra Pradesh and forming Telangana State. It is that A.P.’s three leading political parties, responding to the popular mood, are regionally split on this highly emotive issue. True to form, the State Congress has been unable to make a stand, thus bringing the national party leadership in the direct line of fire. The two leading opposition parties, the Telugu Desam Party and the Praja Rajyam, which supported the demand for a separate Telangana right up to December 7 and did a volte face thereafter, have a special responsibility in helping the central and State governments restore normalcy and work towards a solution. Fortunately, all the major parties other than the Telangana Rashtra Samithi have stakes in all three regions of the State — coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema, and Telangana. Fortunately, no party is in a position to exploit the present crisis and it must be recognised that the TRS showed responsibility by participating in the New Delhi consultations. Apprehensions expressed by some parties about Naxalite infiltration of the Telangana movement are relevant but this factor must not be exaggerated to cloud the issues. The democratic process of consultations on the future of Andhra Pradesh can be constructive and fruitful only if it moves away from an all-or-nothing framework and intelligently seeks common ground by addressing the practical issues and complications, including the future of Hyderabad.