The Congress Working Committee’s historic resolution to create India’s 29th State — Telangana — by partitioning Andhra Pradesh redeems a pledge the party made to the people of the region on the night of December 9, 2009. Compared to the Congress’s flip-flop earlier, its present resolve to fast forward Telangana when the Lok Sabha election is barely 10 months away lays it open to the charge of political expediency. But what matters now is that the people of Telangana are celebrating the decision, which they see as crucial to the fulfilment of their social, economic and political aspirations. As much as the formation of Telangana is a source of joy to its people, the bifurcation is a cause for despondency to those living in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Though a separate Telangana State was first conceived in 1953, the fact that the region spoke the same language as Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra became the basis for the formation of India’s first linguistic State when a unified Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956. What followed, unfortunately, was a saga of unkept promises, violation of the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956, and two violent agitations in 1969 and 1972. Slowly, a feeling built up among the people of Telangana that they were being discriminated against in employment and education.
These wrongs will hopefully be set right when Telangana begins its tryst with destiny soon. Without much ado, the Congress has cut the Gordian knot that was Hyderabad’s status by deciding to make it the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, for a period of 10 years. Seemandhra will receive Central assistance for building a new capital, and the classification of Polavaram — a massive multipurpose irrigation venture — as a national project will help protect the “rump” Andhra Pradesh’s interests. What is a source of worry, however, is that the CWC resolution leaves slightly open-ended the question of whether Telangana will have 10 districts or 12, with the addition of Kurnool and Anantapur in Rayalaseema. There will be other practical difficulties too but the political and civil society leadership of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh must shun regional chauvinism and violence and grasp with both hands the great future that lies ahead of them. If the Congress has opened a Pandora’s box by giving an impetus to similar demands for statehood in Gorkhaland, Bodoland and elsewhere, the party must draw lessons from its chequered handling of the Telangana question. Instead of finding ad hoc solutions to crises as and when they erupt, serious thought must be given to the creation of a second States Reorganisation Commission that will take a structural approach to the problem.