Ensure smooth transition in T’gana ~ kalyani shankar
If all goes as per plan, there will be a separate Telangana state carved out of Andhra Pradesh in about six months. Telangana has already become a core issue for the 2014 polls in a state which is ruled by the Congress. As expected, the decision has found cheer in Telangana while the Seemandhra region is burning with violent protests.
At the political level, the present protests reminds one of the days of the Andhra and Telangana agitations of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then, Indira Gandhi was able to handle it better and ultimately even got the Telangana Praja Samithi leader M Chenna Reddy to join the Congress. Strangely, it is the Congress that helped the TRS revive the demand to serve its vote bank politics and has handled the issue clumsily.
The problem before the government is to ensure that the creation of the new state is painless. But the authorities are facing the ire of the people of the Seemandhra region, who are adversely affected by this decision. The state is burning with violent protests and resignations by ministers – both at the Centre and the state – hailing from the region. There is total shutdown in Seemandhra, with shops, schools and offices closed. Vijayawada is suffering from protests, where power is shut down. The 1260 MW-capacity station provides about 120 MW power to Hyderabad as well, which is set to be the joint capital of the two states for 10 years.
Apprehending protests, the Centre has already sent around 2,500 paramilitary personnel to assist the local police in dealing with the law-and-order situation. But an emotional issue like this cannot be handled by brute force.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has now set up a group of ministers to address various issues, including the division of assets between the two states. The process is long. A unit under the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission will deal with issues likely to be faced by Telangana. The Ministry of Finance has to oversee financial management during the transition. Preceding this, Parliament will have to pass a state reorganisation Bill and also get a nod from the state Assembly. Since both the Congress and the BJP are for Telangana, this could be achieved at the Centre. The majority of Andhra Pradesh legislators are against a separate state of Telangana, and the resolution could be defeated in the Assembly. So at every step, there could be hurdles.
Why is it difficult to have a smooth division of the state? Legislators and MPs from the region have no other option but to resign in order to support public sentiments. They know that the Congress will be wiped out and they may join Jagan Mohan Reddy&’s YSR Congress.
Secondly, Hyderabad still remains the core problem. United Andhra Pradesh supporters are unable to swallow the bitter pill that it will be part of Telangana, although with a rider that both states will share Hyderabad for ten years. Hyderabad today is a world-class city. It is the vested interests of the moneybags from the dominating communities from the Seemandhra region who have high stakes in the city in real estate and other lucrative businesses. They are not able to reconcile to the idea of losing Hyderabad and will fight to the finish. Moreover, there is a belief that 85 per cent of those living in Hyderabad may lose their government jobs. The third and more important problem is water sharing between the two states. How will the two states share water from the Krishna and Godavari rivers, which flow through them? The farmers are quite concerned.
The fourth is the fear of the Seemandhra student community, which believes that they may not get a fair share of opportunities if the state is divided. It is the fury of these students the government should worry about.
The fifth is who will oversee the law and order problems when chief minister Kiran Reddy is not willing to be the last chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and the man who presides over the division? Reddy has made his intentions clear and has chalked out his own future by going to the extent of exploring the possibility of launching his own party. Congress lawmakers from Seemandhra have decided not to quit and instead prevent a resolution in support of Telangana in the state Assembly. Out of the 294 seats, there are 119 falling in Telangana and 175 in Seemandhra. The region sends 25 MPs, while the rest are from Telangana region. Congress calculations for dividing the state was to get at least 15 of the 17 seats in Telangana after the merger of the TRS with the Congress while it is reconciled to no seats in the rest of the state.
The Congress does not have too many options. The first is to change the rebel chief minister but changing horses at this point of time will not be good. The second is to impose President&’s rule for some time to cool passions, but how could the Assembly consider the Telangana resolution? The Centre should address the protestors’ concerns such as Hyderabad, sharing of waters, free movement of people between the two regions and assurances about the property of investors.
While the options of those who oppose bifurcation are limited, it is for the Congress and the BJP who form the majority in Parliament to assuage the feelings of the affected and make sure that the transition is smooth. If they play politics, then the state would be totally lost. For the sake of pure politics, the people of Andhra Pradesh will suffer.