A day after the Congress decided to put statehood for Telangana on the fast track, the party's top leaders from Seemandhra (Andhra and Rayalaseema regions) met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday and threatened to quit if their state was split.
With the Congress Working Committee and the UPA coordination committee likely to take a view on Telangana next week, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and other Seemandhra ministers have issued veiled threats to step down from their posts if the state is bifurcated.
During his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other leaders on Friday, Reddy is learnt to have told them that "creating Telangana is a suicidal step and that it would be difficult for me to preside over any move to bifurcate the state. I will not be a party to any destructive decision".
Members of Parliament MM Pallam Raju, KS Rao, Chiranjeevi and D Purandeshwari (all Union ministers and from coastal Andhra), K Bapi Raju and Anantarami Reddy met the PM to keep Andhra Pradesh united.
This is the second attempt by the UPA government to create a separate state of Telangana. The first move in December 2009 failed following protests against what has been one of the country's oldest campaigns for independent statehood.
Telangana, merged into Andhra Pradesh in 1956 despite opposition, has 20% of the country's coal deposits, 45% of the state's forest area, and ample water reserves - critical to the economy. Its people believe the resources are mostly appropriated for the benefit of those living in other parts of the state.
The core concern, however, is Hyderabad - Andhra Pradesh's capital and commercial hub which is geographically within Telangana.
The delegation that met the PM is understood to have conveyed to him that the creation of Telangana state would not be in the interest of Andhra Pradesh or the country.
Following the meeting, Bapi Raju said the delegation told the PM that the formation of Telangana state would lead to repercussions in other states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
In a related development, state ministers from Seemandhra met at Rao's residence to chalk out their strategy.
S Sailajanath, who is heading the group, said they requested Rao to convey their views to the Congress central leadership. "The Centre has not yet taken any decision. There is no need to panic over media reports. We will resign if the state is divided," he said.
As many as 15 state ministers have said they would have no option but to quit if Telangana state is formed.
The meetings prompted pro-Telangana Congress MP Ponnam Prabhakar to issue an appeal to Seemandhra leaders. "They should act like elder brothers and not create hurdles in the formation of Telangana state. The dominant sentiment in the region is for a separate state."
Another Congress leader from Telangana V Hanumantha Rao urged Seemandhra leaders not to pressure the Centre. "Since 2009, they are seeing the situation. Why are people sacrificing in Telangana? What is the reason for the backwardness and unemployment? Now they have come to a conclusion. So, my request to Andhra leaders is not to pressure, not to resign, not to issue ultimatums to the high command."
Meanwhile, people took out rallies, formed human chains and observed shutdown in some parts of Seemandhra to oppose bifurcation of the state.
Protests in Seemandhra against statehood to Telangana
Opposing Andhra Pradesh's division, which looks imminent, protestors on Saturday took to streets in Rayalaseema and Andhra regions of the state.
Students and activists of various political and non-political groups took out rallies, formed human chains and observed shutdown in some parts of Seemandhra, as the two regions are generally referred to.
Educational institutions remained closed in several towns on a call given by Samaikhya Andhra or United Andhra students' Joint Action Committee.
A day after indications that Congress core group at its meeting Friday decided in principle to give separate statehood to Telangana, protests broke out in different towns of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.
Hundreds of students participated in a rally in Nellore, demanding the central government to drop any move to split the state. Congress legislator Anam Vivekananda Reddy also addressed the rally.
In Anantapur, protestors laid siege to the house of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) legislator P Keshav, demanding his resignation in support of the united state.
He assured the protestors that he would announce his decision after the proposed meeting of Congress Working Committee (CWC), which is expected to take a final call on Telangana.
Shops, business establishments and educational institutions were closed in Bapatla town of Guntur district. Addressing a rally, Senior Congress leader P Goverdhan Reddy said state's division would have serious repercussions.
Telangana row: a background
The seed for a separate Telangana was not sowed in the recent past. The history of this geographical struggle goes way back to the times of independance, infact it precedes that.
The issue is simple. In 1953, a commission was setup and the state boundaries were reorganized. At that time the present day Andra Pradesh was split into two broad parts namely Seemandra (Andra) and Telangana. The top priority of the commission was to merge these two into one 'united Andra Pradesh'.
The commission, even while stating that the Telangana population was against the merger to form a larger unit, went ahead and did it. So was born the present day Andra Pradesh.
Even though both the parts spoke the same language, their accent, customs and festivals varied. Instead of joining hands over their commonality they chose to go separate ways citing their diversity. As Andra region comprised of 9 coastal districts, it rose in power and prosperity, while Telangana struggled.
The Telengana fight started as a peasants movement to reverse the merger and slowly gained momentum which often resulted in violence in various parts of Andra pradesh at various points of time. Accodring to some reports in just over the past three years 300 youths were killed, some reports say 1000.
Whatever the figure may be, lives are at stake when it comes to Telangana issue.
Throughout political history parties have fanned the struggle to gain political mileage. At present, there is a huge tug of war going on between pro-Telangana and anti-Telangana parties. While the regional parties are divided in their opinions regarding a separate state, national parties are ready to join hands with anyone who would gain them the much needed Lok Sabha seats.
The main players are Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which wants a separate Telangana. Their political affinity remains a mystery. While in 2009 they announced a coalition with Telugu Desam Party and forming a third front, suddenly they joined NDA after the elections. The present Congress CM Kiran Reddy has been reiterating his anti-telangana stance in recent rallies.
The Congress feels they would lose votes if election takes place in a divided Andra but still the party top brass is undecided over the issue.YSR congress headed by Jaganmohan Reddy, a man of many controversies, is yet to take a clear stand on the issue. Several party MLAs are agitated over the dilly-dallying of the issue by party top floor.
BJP, meanwhile, has been giving out press releases in favour of a separate state. Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi finally broke his silence on the contentious Telangana issue, declaring the party was not in favour of a separate state.
CPM had always shown reluctance over a separate state. Telugu Desam Party which is prepared to do anything to gain its lost political balance is supporting the separate state.
To put an end to the confusion, the Congress-led UPA government is likely to announce a decision on Telangana before the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
(With inputs from agencies)