Will Telangana be the 29th state of India? The answer may be coming today.
Amid clear indications that the Congress leadership is in favour of carving out the separate state from Andhra Pradesh, top bodies of the ruling party and the UPA are meeting on Tuesday.
Well-placed sources said while Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi have already given their nod to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh despite stiff opposition from various quarters, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was reluctant in view of intelligence agencies raising security concerns over the proposed move.
However, a senior leader said the Congress leadership has decided to bite the bullet as the issue has been hanging fire for several decades now and any further delay in the decision could prove counter-productive for the party.
The UPA coordination committee and the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision making body of the party, are all set to endorse the move and place it before parliament for approval in the monsoon session that commences from August 5.
The urgency on the part of the Congress leadership to resolve the tangle could be gauged by the fact that the UPA meet was advanced by a day and the CWC will also deliberate the same day.
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Among the main UPA constituents apart from the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party president and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has already made a strong pitch for the formation of Telangana and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh is a votary of smaller states.
The move will give impetus to his long-standing demand creating a separate Harit Pradesh from Uttar Pradesh.
The CWC is expected to discuss various options such as creating Telangana with ten districts or a Rayala-Telangana that will have 12 districts, including Anantapur and Kurnool from Rayalaseema region.
Also the issue of Hyderabad has to be settled - whether it could be the capital of Telangana, a union territory or a joint capital for a fixed period of time.
However, the resistance to the move within the Congress is also becoming more pronounced as the crucial day approaches. AP chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and state and central ministers from Seemandhra have hinted at quitting if a decision is taken to split the state.
In that case, the Congress could either appoint a new chief minister or even consider the option of bringing the state under a brief spell of President's rule.
While Telangana appears to be a certainty now, Congress circles were also abuzz with the speculation that the party could consider setting up the second states re-organisation commission (SRC) to look into demands for other smaller states, including Gorkhaland and Bodoland.
A timeline on Telangana
The UPA coordination committee meeting has been convened in an attempt to secure a stamp of approval of the constituents of the ruling alliance. The CWC will take a final call after getting a sense of the stand of the allies.
Nationalist Congress Party chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has already made a strong pitch for the formation of a separate Telangana.
What could further embolden the Congress leadership to bite the bullet is the support of ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal, whose leader and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh wants creation of a separate Harit Pradesh from Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress, however, is facing stiff resistance from its important leaders in Seemandhra (Andhra and Rayalaseema regions), including chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Supporters of united Andhra Pradesh on Monday intensified their protests in the Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions against the Congress leadership's reported proposal to divide the state.
Meanwhile, the united Andhra protagonists held protests outside the residences or offices of Union ministers and ruling party MPs including D Purandeswari (Visakhapatnam), K S Rao (Eluru), L Rajagopal (Vijayawada) among others.
The students, employees and others staged a dharna in front of the residence of Union minister D Purandeswari and MP Sabbam Hari in Visakhapatnam.
A large number of students led by their Joint Action Committee (JAC) held a sit-in at the main gate of Andhra University in Visakhapatnam and burnt an effigy of Congress leaders from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. The united Andhra supporters protested outside the residence of Congress Lok Sabha member L Rajagopal in Vijayawada but they were prevented from entering his house.
Hover over the picture for govt statistics on Telangana
Opposition on divided Andhra
While the UPA meeting is an attempt to secure a stamp of approval of the constituents of the ruling alliance, the Congress Working Committee meeting is to take a final call after it gets the sense about the stand of the allies on the issue.
While NCP chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has already made a strong pitch for the formation of separate Telangana, another ally RLD leader and civil aviation minister is a votary of smaller states and has been advocating for long the creation of Harit Pradesh out of districts of Western Uttar Pradesh, his home turf.
BJP president Rajnath Singh on Sunday extended his party's support for the creation of Telangana.
"We support Telangana cause. The BJP is committed to forming the State," Singh had said.
BJP leaders have been saying that Telangana will become a reality if the BJP comes to power at the Centre after the general elections.
(With PTI inputs)