Even as the UPA coordination panel and the
Congress Working Committee (CWC)
are expected to take a view on Telangana in the next few days, the clamour for separate states of Gorkhaland and Bodoland has worried the Congress leadership which appears set to divide Andhra Pradesh.
The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the separate statehood campaign, has called a 72-hour strike from Monday. GJM president Bimal Gurung termed it the start of the final battle for Gorkhaland and declared that he would resign from the post of chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, an autonomous and elected hill council formed in July 2011.
The move on Telangana has also reignited the long-standing demand for carving out Bodoland from Assam.
But as the Congress leadership appears determined to go ahead with the creation of Telangana, the issue has been a cause of deep divide in the party. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has issued a veiled threat to step down from his post if the state is bifurcated.
During his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other leaders on Friday, Reddy is learnt to have told them that “creating Telangana is a suicidal step and that it would be difficult for me to preside over any move to bifurcate the state. I will not be a party to any destructive decision”.
The resignation threat by Reddy and state ministers from coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema is to safeguard their own political interests.
Union ministers MM Pallam Raju, KS Rao, Chiranjeevi and D Purandeshwari and MPs Kanimuru Bapi Raju and Anantarami Reddy on Saturday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a delegation to express their opposition to the move.
Andhra ministers from Seemandhra, who have been camping in Delhi for the past few days, also wrote to Sonia Gandhi, urging her not to split the state. They have sought an appointment with Gandhi.
The delegation is understood to have conveyed to the Prime Minister that the creation of Telangana would not be in the interest of Andhra Pradesh or the country.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Bapi Raju said they told the PM that formation of Telangana will escalate the separate statehood demand in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other states.
In a day of hectic developments, AP ministers from Seemandhra, camping in Delhi for the past few days, met at KS Rao’s residence to chalk out their strategy to prevent the bifurcation of the state.
The group, led by S Sailajanath, has conveyed to the Congress leadership that the ministers (15 of them) would have no option but to quit, if the party and the UPA government decide to go ahead with formation of Telangana state. “The Centre has not yet taken any decision. There is no need to panic over media reports. We will resign if the state is divided,” Sailajanath said.
The lobbying prompted pro-Telangana Congress MP Ponnam Prabhakar to issue an appeal to Seemandhra leaders to allow the process to begin. “They should play the role of an elder brother and not create hurdles in the formation of Telangana. The dominant sentiment in the region is for separation,” he said.
Congress sources said a decision in favour of Telangana could be announced in the first week of August and may be formalised at a CWC meeting after which the issue could go to parliament for passage of a bill for the purpose.
Another Congress leader from Telangana V Hanumantha Rao urged Seemandhra leaders not to create unnecessary pressure on the Centre. “Since 2009, they are seeing the situation. Why people are sacrificing in Telangana? What is the reason for the backwardness, unemployment? Now they have come to one conclusion. So, my request to Andhra leaders is not to pressurise, not to resign, not to issue ultimatum to the high command,” he said.