The Congress's Telangana woes are far from over. The party's nod to carve out a separate state from Andhra Pradesh appears to have multiplied its troubles rather than solving the complex problem it had been facing for the past many years.
It's been nearly a month since the Congress Working Committee (CWC) accepted one of the oldest demands in independent India for a separate state and asked the UPA government to split Andhra Pradesh but the Union cabinet is yet to take up the issue.
Government sources said the move was held up as home minister Sushilkumar Shinde had been unwell and rejoined office only late last week.
A UPA functionary said the matter could come up before the cabinet once the monsoon session of Parliament was over. This means further delay. The government had earlier stated that the bill to create the new state was expected to reach Parliament in the winter session.
To score political points, the BJP, a strong votary of Telangana, has asked the ruling side to immediately bring a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament to create the new state even if the monsoon session needs to be extended by a few days.
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj charged both the Congress and the government with "playing a game" on the issue. "By announcing the new state, the Congress thought it will placate pro-Telangana leaders while the government through its inaction is placating those in favour of a united Andhra Pradesh," she said.
The CWC move has stalled key bills in Parliament. Both houses witnessed frequent disruptions by anti-Telangana members belonging to the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in protest against the move to divide Andhra Pradesh. Their continued protests thwarted the Congress party's bid to get the much-touted food security bill passed before the birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on August 20.
This prompted many Congress leaders, particularly young MPs, to question the timing of the move. The decision could have been taken after the session, a party MP said.
For the Congress, the monsoon session is the last opportunity to push through long-pending bills. As the winter session coincides with the assembly polls in five states, the opposition is unlikely to allow any major legislative business in Parliament.
The food bill, along with the direct benefits transfer scheme, is billed as a "game changer" for the 2014 polls and the Congress hopes to reap electoral dividends from these as had been the case with the loan waiver and MGNREGA in 2009.
With this in mind, the government moved a motion seeking suspension of 10 members of the Congress and the TDP for the remaining part of the session. However, the move was scuttled by a united opposition.
Finally, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar cracked the whip and suspended 12 MPs — eight from the Congress and four from the TDP — for five working days of the ongoing session.
Outside Parliament, a four-member Congress panel headed by defence minister AK Antony is hearing the concerns of those affected by the decision on Telangana. After the cabinet nod, a group of ministers (GoM) is expected to be formed to look into post-bifurcation issues such as water sharing and the distribution of assets and liabilities.