The roller-coaster ride to Telangana has now taken a sudden turn, with the Centre planning a new avatar, Rayala-Telangana, just before proposing the Telangana bill in Parliament’s winter session, beginning on Thursday.
The union cabinet will meet on Thursday and is likely to take a final call on the proposal by the group of ministers on the state’s bifurcation. The report suggested adding two Rayala districts, Kurnool and Anantapur, to Telangana’s 10.
The other two Rayala districts, Chittoor and Kadapa, are proposed to be merged with the Seemandhra region.
The plus points: Administratively, it will divide Andhra Pradesh into two equal entities so perfectly that they will have the same number of assembly and Lok Sabha seats — 147 and 21, respectively.
Besides, it will solve issues like the Srisailam hydel project, built across the Krishna in Kurnool, straddling the Telangana and Rayalaseema regions. And if not included in Telangana, Kurnool may claim back the glory of being a state capital that it was before Andhra was formed in 1956.
Finally, the creation of Rayala-Telangana may help check another movement for a separate Rayalaseema state.
Politically, it seems to be the best way for the Congress to divide the state. Rayala-Telangana will mean TDP president Chandrababu Naidu — from Chittoor — and YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy — from Kadapa — may be confined to Seemandhra, fighting each other.
It will also force the new Congress rebel chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy to manage a territory where the party holds no hopes of winning even a single Lok Sabha seat in 2014.
What’s more, the addition of Kurnool and Anantapur may dilute the Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhara Rao’s strength in the region.
But creating Rayala-Telangana will not be a cakewalk, it seems. Though some Telangana Congress leaders are fine with “a slightly modified Telangana”, the TRS is viewing the two districts — barren and landlocked with no industries — as excess baggage.
The TRS and several pro-Telangana groups have given a strike call on Thursday against the move. The official reason, however, is protest against the move to “dilute the Telangana identity”.
The BJP, whose support is critical for the bill, is also opposing the plan, as it fears it’ll strengthen the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen, confined so far to Hyderabad. Because the two districts have sizeable Muslim populations.
Though the Kurnool and Anantapur leaders like JC Diwakar Reddy, a legislator and former minister, are backing the proposal, intellectuals are agitated and accuse the leaders of splitting the Rayalaseema identity and culture for political gains.
“It is evident that leaders lobbying or supporting Rayala-Telangana have their business or political interests in mind,” said K Maddaiah, a retired teacher in Kurnool Government Degree College.
It seems the Krishna river will play an important role in the bifurcation exercise. “How can you split us from Kadapa and Chittoor and merge with Telangana, which is so much different that we don’t marry girls from the other side of the Krishna,” said Giri Srikanth, a local journalist.