The process of carving a new state of Telangana out of the existing Andhra Pradesh will soon begin, Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced late on Wednesday evening.
Responding finally to an 11-day long hunger strike by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao, demanding a separate state, and street protests across the Telangana region in his support, top Congress leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi held a series of meetings through the day to resolve the issue.
"After these consultations, I am making this statement. The process of forming the state of Telangana will be initiated. An appropriate resolution will be moved in the state Assembly," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters late in the night.
The Centre and the Congress party were forced to take such a step after further deterioration in the health of TRS
chief K Chandrasekhar Rao, whose fast-unto-death entered the 11th day today and tensions simmered in the entire Telangana region apprehending the worst.
Chidambaram said that the government has been concerned over the agitation in Telangana in the past few days.
"We have held extensive consultations. The Prime Minister was away. He returned yesterday and after that we had onsultations with the Chief Minister," the Home Minister said.
Telangana region accounts for 119 of the 294 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh and 17 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats.
TRS, which was formed in 2001 on the plank of a separate Telangana by Rao after he quit TDP, was part of the UPA after the 2004 elections. It parted ways with the Congress in 2006, saying the UPA was doing nothing on its demand.
While in the 2004 elections his party won 5 Lok Sabha seats, in 2009 it managed only two seats and suffered severe erosion in the Assembly elections too.
The decision came on a day when in Lok Sabha leaders cutting across party lines expressed concern over the health of Rao and urged for immediate intervention by the Centre.
The Centre's decision also comes on the back of a strong demand from 15 Congress MPs belonging to Telangana region who met Gandhi and demanded creation of Telangana state. Earlier, Rosaiah told reporters that it was for the Centre to take a decision-- whether amalgamation or bifurcation --factoring in all issues.
With the fast entering 11th day, 55-year-old Chandrasekhara Rao's health developed protein malfunction after he refused even intravenous fluids. But in the afternoon doctors said there was a "marginal improvement" in his condition after he agreed to have intravenous fluids and to be put on saline drips.
Tension mounted in the state capital and Telangana region ahead of the "march to Hyderabad" which resembled a fortress as additional police forces were deployed and hundreds of activists were rounded up to prevent any protests.
Telangana state is likely to comprise the 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh — the area that constituted the old Hyderabad state during British times. It includes Hyderabad, the current Andhra capital.
In Hyderabad, TRS chief Rao broke his fast on hearing the news. (With PTI inputs)