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29th state in the making?

india Updated: Feb 13, 2009 00:58 IST
Ashok Das

Though it will not happen overnight, the last important hurdle before the creation of India’s 29th state, Telangana, has been removed.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy announced in the assembly that his government had no objection to the carving out of a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh.

“The government has decided to constitute a committee of both Houses to deliberate the issues and concerns on the formation of Telangana, and further steps could be taken after the report is submitted,” he said, reading out from a prepared statement.

Other parties in the state have already announced their support for the creation of Telangana, including the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) that once bitterly opposed it. The Congress at the centre had seemingly supported the demand when it formed an alliance with the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) – whose raison d’etre is Telangana’s creation – during the 2004 Lok Sabha poll, but staunch opposition from the state unit, led by the chief minister, forced it to avoid implementing the promise.

But with both Lok Sabha and assembly polls due in the state in the next two months, and the TRS teaming up with the TDP and the left parties, the CPI and CPM this time to form their ‘grand alliance’, the Congress has realised it can no longer prevaricate on Telangana. Thus Rajasekhar Reddy, chief opponent of the demand, was made to announce the party’s U-turn.

Congressmen readily admit that the announcement will help their poll prospects in the 17 Lok Sabha and 119 assembly seats that fall in the Telangana region. “Now that we too are supporting the demand for Telangana, our leaders and cadres can move around with their heads held high in the region,” said Congress MLA M. S. Rao. Indeed Congressmen expect the decision to destroy the grand alliance’s main plank against it in the Telangana seats.

Rajasekhar Reddy’s volte face will also help deflect attention from the allegations of financial irregularities in the companies owned by the chief minister’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy, made in the assembly over the past three days, feel Congressmen. “The Jagan Reddy issue has embarrassed our party greatly,” admitted a senior Congress MLA. The party also hopes its concession will also deflect attention from its handling of the investigations into the Satyam scam, which has been much criticized.