On December 28, 2012, after an all-party meeting organised to discuss statehood for Telangana, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde held out two assurances. One, a decision will be taken within a month. And two, there will be no further all-party meetings on this issue. A month later, he has reneged on both promises. Not only is no solution forthcoming from the Centre on this vexed issue, but more meetings are to be scheduled for consultations with leaders of different political parties and groups. The problem with the kind of meetings organised by the Centre is that they do not go beyond the reiteration of known positions by the stakeholders, whether of the pro-Telangana or the anti-Telangana variety. Given the contentious nature of the issue, any solution would have to involve compromises by both sides and retraction from their maximal positions. Even if there is no possibility of finding a meeting point, the Centre could have used the consultations held so far to look for some common ground. But there was no attempt to force a meaningful compromise, to weigh one viable proposal against another, to eventually rule in one and rule out the rest. The good work carried out by the Srikrishna Committee in evaluating the various options open before the Centre was effectively laid waste. Indeed, nothing at all was done to build a consensus on the basis of the proposals outlined in the report. Instead, all the time and effort taken up until now has been directed towards deferring the much-feared showdown between supporters and opponents of Telangana. Buying time to do nothing, rather than moving forward to a solution, was the be-all and end-all of the Congress strategy.

But all buying involves cost, and the same goes for buying time too. When the Centre breaks its own promises on the Telangana issue, month after month and year after year, it pays a price in terms of its own credibility and authority. The Centre’s vacillations and doublespeak have shown up the political calculations, however silly or short-sighted, of the Congress working in the background. True, if New Delhi decides one way or the other on Telangana, the Congress would end up incurring the displeasure of some section. But then, delaying tactics are not going to yield political dividends either. Quite shockingly, even while announcing further consultations, the Congress general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad, declined to set a deadline for reaching a decision. The people of Andhra Pradesh, who have already endured the ill-effects of the long-running Telangana agitation, should not be made a plaything of the political games of the Congress.

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