Despite President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday granting another week till January 30 for the Andhra Pradesh assembly to give its views on the bill to create Telangana state, Congress leaders from the region – and from Seemandhra (Rayalseema and coastal Andhra regions) -- remain anxious for different reasons.
Though the views of the assembly are not binding on the Centre, Seemandhra MLAs who are a majority are insisting that a vote be held on the bill in order to reject it.
Telangana Congress leaders are worried about statehood not becoming a reality before the Lok Sabha elections likely within the next four months.
The Congress’ own chief minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy, has strongly opposed separation of Telangana and Seemandhra but his deputy, D Raja Narasimha, sounded more than optimistic about formation of Telangana state by February-end. "I am 1,000% confident. And we will sweep the region with at least 14 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats," he said.
Voters in Telangana, however, are suspicious of such confidence. "There is no guarantee we’ll get statehood once the Lok Sabha elections are over," said Errolla Ramesh, 40, a toddy-tapper from Medak district.
For people like Ramesh, suspicion arises from the hard reality that once Andhra Pradesh is split, the Congress is unlikely to get any Lok Sabha seat from the 25 in Seemandhra and this factor would be crucial to the party’s timing on statehood for Telangana. So agitated are the 19 Congress Lok Sabha MPs from Seemandhra that six of them went to the unprecedented extent of moving a no-confidence motion against their own government at the centre earlier this month.
"There is no way I can win if I contest on a Congress ticket," a state minister from Seemandhra said. And this view is shared by his cabinet and party colleagues from Seemandhra who are in talks with the TDP and YSR Congress and will jump ship if they are assured an assembly or Lok Sabha ticket from one of these two parties.
The anxiety of Congress MPs from Seemandhra is understandable. The party, which won more than 30 seats from Andhra in 2004 and 2009, will virtually be wiped out from Seemandhra and at best win only 14 from Telangana this time.
In addition to popular discontentment in Seemandhra, is the rise of the YSR Congress led by Jaganmohan Reddy, who says he’ll have no truck with the Congress. Besides, the fortunes of the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP appear to be looking up in Seemandhra lately.
Ironically, a political analyst said the only way the UPA can retain its strength in Seemandhra is to take the YSR Congress along after formation of Telangana state. This view was reflected by Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who reiterated recently that Jaganmohan Reddy has the Congress’ DNA.
And in the midst of all this, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, is playing hardball, refusing to commit itself on a merger or alliance with the Congress. All in all, a difficult situation stares the Congress in the face ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in this southern state.