Grasping the nettle is not something that comes very easily to coalition governments. But the UPA has decided that painful though it may be, it will set the ball rolling in the creation of a Telangana state.
With its decision to grant this contentious statehood — this will be the 29th State in the Indian Union — it cannot have been unaware that it is in for a lot of flak.
The very fact that the demand has been there for the last 60 years shows how difficult this decision must have been, especially with general elections so close. In effect, the new Telangana state will be the same as the old Hyderabad state before it merged with the Andhra state in 1956.
As of now it seems that Hyderabad will be capital of both states till Andhra develops one of its own. There are still deep divisions and reservations on this issue and the challenge now is to manage all this.
For the moment, the beefed up security in Andhra may keep the peace but this decision has offended a lot of people, not the least being a section within the Congress itself.
The Congress has blown hot and cold on this issue for some years now. After the Telangana Rashtra Samithi of K Chandrashekhar Rao was able to successfully revive the Telangana issue and indeed make it a confrontational one with the government, the Centre has been groping around for an answer.
Many students in Andhra have committed suicide for this cause and many have suffered grave reverses in their studies having lost up to a year, thanks to the agitations over this issue. The much-awaited Srikrishna Committee report was against the bifurcation of the state, rather it proposed greater autonomy to the Telangana region and greater resource allocation.
After having set up the Committee, the Centre seemed strangely reluctant to implement its recommendations. This might have been an easier option than the actual division of the state, which has now been decided on by the party.
Much of how this will play out lies in the manner in which it is implemented and the maturity of all the political parties concerned. If past example is anything to go by, we cannot expect that they will be guided by reason or the greater public good. Rather as elections draw near, there will be every temptation to politicise this issue even more than it has already been.
The Centre must also now contend with similar demands from other states, the Gorkhaland demand has already been voiced, for bifurcation.
This is going to be a fractious and expensive proposition. Much of course will depend on the success or otherwise of the Telangana experiment. But having conceded on Telangana, the Centre has no choice but to ensure a fair hearing for similar demands from other states.