With the Union government announcing the terms of reference and the time frame for the Telangana Committee, the proper course for the Joint Action Committee of political parties that is spearheading the agitation for a separate state would have been to wait for its report, due by December 31, 2010. The five-member Telangana committee headed by the former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna needs the time and the space for examining this contentious issue in all its aspects. People and parties are divided on the statehood question, and the terms of reference necessarily had to be broad and wide-ranging, accommodating the demands for both a Telangana state and for a united Andhra Pradesh. In any case, including one demand in the terms of reference would have implied dealing with the other and neither could have been considered in isolation. The JAC’s stand against the committee examining the demand for keeping Andhra Pradesh united mirrored that of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, whose raison d’etre is a separate Telangana. Quite understandably, other parties, including those with high stakes in Telangana, were not willing to unqualifiedly fall in line with the JAC ’s ultimatums. The end-result could well leave the TRS friendless and lonely. Telangana accounts for 119 of the 294 members in the State Assembly, but only 12 of them have quit so far. Of these, 10 are from the TRS. Only one of the 39 Telugu Desam Party MLAs from the region resigned, while others decided to wait for the decision of the Congress MLAs from the region. As for the BJP, for long an unequivocal supporter of a Telangana State, one of its two MLAs from the region quit. An ineffective JAC, far from being able to convince all the legislators, was reduced to setting a deadline for other MLAs to quit.

Carving out smaller States is too important and complex an issue to be taken in the heat of inflamed passions and under the pressure of political agitations. In the absence of a political consensus, and when concerns are raised about the wider implications for the other parts of the State, decisions will have to be made after wide-ranging consultations, and on the basis of a well laid out road map. Those clamouring for a separate Telangana will surely help their own cause by extending full cooperation to the Srikrishna panel, instead of vitiating the atmosphere again by instigating violence or asking elected political representatives to resign. All stakeholders must ensure that the panel succeeds in its rather difficult task of balancing the interests and concerns of different sections and recommending a plan of action towards a solution, as set out in the terms of reference.

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