The losses in terms of factory output, property prices, lost college and school days and construction work, just to name a few have been too colossal to compute. As yet another rail roko looms in Andhra Pradesh, the contentious Telangana issue is not closer to any sort of resolution. The Centre has to take the lion’s share of the responsibility for letting things come to such a pass in the state where many people, especially daily wage workers, are suffering thanks to the repeated bandhs and violence. It was the Centre’s seeming acquiescence to a possible state for Telangana that set the ball rolling in 2009. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader Chandrashekar Rao had been written off as a spent political force when he got this issue on a platter. He was able to play it out well enough to spin the Telangana issue into a major political manoeuvre and at the same time rehabilitate himself.
Now that the agitation has developed a life of its own, the Centre seems to have had a change of heart with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee saying that no time frame can be set for the creation of Telangana. Even more puzzling is the statement that this could set a precedent in other states where there have been demands for divisions. Surely, this was known when the initial remarks suggesting that Telangana could be considered was made. Now that the Centre has called for fresh consultations, it could well be accused of playing for time. From being a regional leader of little consequence, today Mr Rao seems to be moving his battle to the Capital. There is no doubt that this is a tricky issue, but the Centre has to come out with a coherent plan that can address the demands of the people and also keep its reputation intact. Surely, a panel of experts could be set up to look at the tricky issues that such a bifurcation will throw up.
The Centre could take advantage of the fact that many people in the state are fed up with the constant disruption of daily life and the losses they are incurring. This affords an opportunity for both the Samithi and the Centre to hammer out some viable solution. There are several political formations in the state which do not necessarily see Telangana as workable without the resolution of the status of Hyderabad. The Centre cannot ignore their views and this is something it should have made clear to Mr Rao before things went so badly out of hand. Even now, Mr Rao can be persuaded to come to the negotiating table. But without a viable framework for the discussions, the shutdowns in the state will continue make things life difficult for the citizens who are trying to get on with their lives and livelihoods.