The Congress is caught between the contending claims of its Andhra Pradesh unit over maintaining a united state or setting up a separate Telangana. On Thursday, it refused to formally spell out its stand on the Srikrishna report that lists the pros and cons of six options and left it to the government to take a political call on the matter.
Party sources said that they will go by the government’s decision on the contentious issue. ``We are running a coalition and any decision the government takes will be in consultation with allies,’’ said a senior leader who did not want to be named. The government, on its part, will finalise its stand once the eight recognised parties who were invited by Home Minister P Chidamaram to discuss the Srikrisha report on Thursday send in their views on the document by month-end.
The Srikrishna report, released on Thursday, considers three of its six options unpractical: maintaining status quo, bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh with Hyderabad as union territory and separate capitals for the two states in due course and bifurcation with Hyderabad as part of Rayala-Telangana.
The other options include bifurcating Andhra into Seemandhra and Telangana with enlarged Hyderabad as a UT with linkages to other region and the bifurcation with Hyderabad as capital of Telangana and a new capital for Seemandhra. This is considered the ``second best option''.
The most workable option, it says, is keeping the state united while creating a statutorily empowered Telangana regional council for the socio-economic development and political empowerment of the region.
But Congress leaders from Telangana may find this `most workable’’ hard to accept in view of the emotional outpouring for a separate state by other parties. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti, for instance, has outrightly rejected the report and said it will settle for nothing less than a separate state. The TRS, as also the BJP and the Telegu Desam, refused to attend Home Minister P Chidambaram’s meeting to brief the eight recognized parties of the state on the report.
Reflecting the Congress’s dilemma, at the meeting, K Sambasiva Rao—a known votary of united Andhra---did not speak at all other than maintaining that he would go through the report and give his views later. His colleague Uttam Kumar Reddy however pleaded for bifurcation—a view echoed also by CPI leaders. ``Of all the options given, only option five is acceptable to us which speaks of bifurcation of the state with Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana,’’ said Reddy.
In Hyderabad, Congress legislator like R Damodar Reddy and Gandra Venkata Ramana Reddy also articulated similar sentiments. ``We want Telangana state and nothing else. We hope the Centre will respect the wishes of the people and the region and grant statehood.’’ As the report tilts in favour of a united Andhra Pradesh while empowering the Telangana region, Congress leaders opposed to a division have kept a low profile so far. But when the Telangana agitation was on a high, they had been equally articulate in demanding that the status quo be maintained.
Quizzed about the contradiction in the party's stand, a senior Congress leader said: ``They have to articulate the sentiments of the people of their region. They come from that area.'' In fact, when veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee called the party's MPs from Telangana for a meeting on Wednesday, they went emotional with their plea for a separate Telangana.
Impact on the Congress
The big question is how will all this affect the Congress in the state which was once its showpiece of governance and has been gripped with political uncertainty, and therefore administrative laxity, since its chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash in September 2009? In the months since then, the party and the government floundered in the state. The demad for Telangana added to the uncertainty. YSR’s successor Rosaiah had to step down and make way for Kiran Reddy. YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy--who made no secret of his desire to become chief minister—recently broke ranks from the Congress and is now trying to set up his own outfit which may cut into the Congress votes in the 2014 assembly and Lok Sabha polls. And now, unless the Congress leadership at the Centre and in the state is able to politically manage the situation, the statehood issue would once again throw the state into a tailspin.