With the Union Cabinet clearing the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana is one big step closer to realisation. But like any partition, this too will come with pain, dislocation, anxiety and anger. A new State might not have been the best of solutions to address the inequities of development in the region, but it became politically inevitable after a prolonged, intense agitation by large sections of the people. Not surprisingly, the people of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have adopted similar tactics in opposition to the bifurcation, forcing a shutdown of Seemandhra. Though their movement has been peaceful, there is a danger of violence gaining political legitimacy, thanks to the muddled and opportunist thinking of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre which rushed to put the Cabinet’s seal of approval without bothering to deliberate over proposals to safeguard the legitimate concerns of Seemandhra. Whether it leaned towards granting statehood to Telangana, or stepped back in favour of the status quo, the Centre’s reasoning and actions seemed inspired by petty electoral-political calculations. Depending on the dominant popular mood, the UPA government has swung one way, then another, each time lacking the conviction needed to carry a difficult decision forward.
But now that the creation of Telangana is almost a fait accompli, those opposed to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh should focus on their specific concerns such as the status of the capital Hyderabad, the sharing of Krishna and Godavari waters, free movement of goods and people between the two States, and the protection of lives and means of livelihood. The political options of those opposed to the new State are rather limited. Given that the powers are concentrated in the hands of the Centre when it comes to creation of new States, much will depend on the attitude of the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Both are now backing the creation of Telangana. Parties covertly or overtly opposed to Telangana such as the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress might not be able to influence the course of events even if they are elected in large numbers to the State Assembly and the Lok Sabha in 2014. The imperative now is to ensure that the process of bifurcation is smooth, and that the concerns of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema are taken into account. Besides allowing for Hyderabad as a shared capital for a period of 10 years, the Centre must ensure that this city, which remains the most contentious issue for the two sides, remains accessible to both Telangana and the residuary Andhra Pradesh as a source of employment for their people and revenue generation for their governments. The people of Seemandhra must press ahead with hope, and not look back in anger or regret.