Cong treading a cautious path on Telangana issue
There were celebrations and protests, tears of joy and angry resignations today as the government initiated the first steps towards forming India's 29th state of Telangana, triggering a massive political crisis in parent state Andhra Pradesh.93 legislators quit | Listen to podcast | KCR has his way | People celebrate| Turmoil: In picsindia Updated: Dec 11, 2009 00:01 IST
There were celebrations and protests, tears of joy and angry resignations on Thursday as the government initiated the first steps towards forming India's 29th state of Telangana, triggering a massive political crisis in parent state Andhra Pradesh.
Home Minister P Chidambaram's statement late Wednesday pledging to begin the process of forming a separate Telangana state led to wild scenes of celebration in the Telangana region and its main proponent, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhar Rao, calling off his 11-day fast.
Through his 11-day fast-unto-death supported by mass protests, the 55-year-old Rao, known as KCR to his followers, had achieved what other leaders from the region could not in five decades.
For the TRS chief, who broke down as he recalled the sacrifices of those who laid down their lives for Telangana - which literally means land of the Telugus - it was the ultimate political triumph that fulfilled the five-decade old aspirations of the people of the backward region, comprising 10 districts, including Hyderabad.
With the division, Andhra will be left with 13 districts - nine prosperous districts of coastal Andhra, and four backward districts of Rayalaseema region. Telangana has a population of about 35 million people while coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema will be left 40 million people.
In the home minister's view, the demand for a separate Telangana state in Andhra Pradesh showed how people feel neglected despite speaking same language.
When asked whether the accession to the demand would not set off a cascading effect in other parts of the country, he remarked cryptically: "The US has one-third of our population still it has 50 states."
The move found backing from other parties, including from the principal opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and BJP leader LK Advani Advani congratulated the government for agreeing to the demand for a separate Telangana state.
He also asked the government on how the government would go about carving a separate state, to which Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the Lok Sabha would be told in a day or two out the steps being initiated.
The developments predictably triggered a chain reaction. The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) announced an indefinite hunger strike for a separate Gorkhaland state to be carved out West Bengal.
In Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile, slogans of "Jai Telangana" rent the air as TRS workers, students and other sections of people in Telangana celebrated the victory through Wednesday night and right through Thursday.
The celebrations were offset by an escalating political crisis with at least 129 Andhra Pradesh legislators and several MPs from the Andhra and Rayalseema regions resigning or threatening to quit to protest the "unilateral" decision to divide the state.
As many as 53 legislators of the ruling Congress, 29 of the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and 11 of the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) have reportedly quit or offered to resign. Besides, 36 members of the legislative council also threatened to quit.
Two MPs of the Congress party have resigned - L Rajagopal from Vijayawada Lok Sabha constituency in coastal Andhra. Another MP R. Sambasiva Rao has also resigned their seats in parliament.
There were others in queue.
"I am going to meet the Congress chief (Sonia Gandhi) along with other MPs of the state and tender my resignation," said Anantha Venkatarami Reddy from Anantapur.
As Gandhi called an emergency meeting of leaders from Andhra and Rayalaseema, the action unfolded on the streets with huge protests.
At S.K. University in Anantapur district of Rayalaseema region, for instance, students took out a rally, clashed with police and damaged several buses. Tension also prevailed in Anantapur as protestors also blocked vehicular traffic on the Hyderabad-Bangalore national highway.
There were similar scenes in several places in Visakhapatnam, Guntur and Vijayawada as well.
Alarmed over the spate of resignations and protests, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said the resolution on forming a Telangana state would be tabled in the assembly only after consultations.
Appearing to play down the enormity of the move, Rosaiah advised MPs and legislators not to get agitated over the issue and resign as the process of moving a resolution had not even started.
"If necessary, the resolution will be moved in the assembly. Even if such a situation arises, the resolution will be passed only if it gets majority support," he told reporters.
"I don't think that the state will be divided immediately."
The other prickly issue to be dealt with was Hyderabad. A section of leaders of the Congress and the TDP demanded that Greater Hyderabad become a union territory in view of the large number of "settlers" from Andhra and Rayalaseema regions and other parts of the country.
"What will remain in Telangana if you take out Hyderabad," countered revolutionary balladeer Gaddar.