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… districts of coastal Andhra, resulting in a total blackout of the area, and no signs of the agitation abating, the Centre wants to send out the message that while it has begun work on Telangana, it will take more time to address the concerns of the people of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.

Indeed, Mr. Chacko repeatedly said on Wednesday, “We understand the genuine apprehensions about the future of Hyderabad and we, therefore, need more time to consult all stakeholders — it is a very sensitive issue.”

The Congress, he asserted, had taken the “right decision at the right time” after due “application of mind” and on the basis of support for a new State from all political parties in Andhra Pradesh except the CPI (M).

However, if this mixed message emerged from the party and the government on Wednesday, Telangana’s Congress representatives say they have been assured by the party’s top leadership that the process of creating a new State will be completed before the general elections. For the sense is that it is only if Telangana is a reality before the State goes to the polls that the party can hope to reap the electoral dividends of granting statehood.

Charge against CM

Simultaneously, the Telangana lobby is now openly accusing Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy of fuelling the agitation amidst continuing speculation that he could be replaced.

The Congress also asked the government to take “strong action” to restore power in Andhra, even if that meant resorting to the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), even as it appealed to all political parties to help create an atmosphere in which dialogue is possible. “The common people are suffering,” Mr. Chacko stressed, “the power shutdown is creating havoc and the water supply has been affected.”