The fond hope the Centre seems to entertain that if situations are simply ignored, they will eventually sort themselves out has backfired with alarming regularity. Now it seems that its masterly inaction on the Telangana problem has once again brought the fractious issue back into the limelight with a vengeance. Pro-Telangana protestors have brought Hyderabad to a standstill torching vehicles and pelting stones at the police even as the Telangana Joint Action Committee is busy organising silent protests and hunger strikes. The continuation of this chaos masterminded by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has been going on sporadically since 2009 and there has been not an inch of progress towards resolving it.
At the heart of the matter is the demand for separate statehood for Telangana, something which the Centre had tacitly agreed to consider. It was to find a way out that the Srikrishna Commission was set up. It presented its report last year in which it gave several options, not recommendations. Some touched on the bifurcation of the state with Union Territory status for Hyderabad, some advocated that Hyderabad be the capital of a Telangana state and the one which the commission itself proffered as most suitable was to keep the state united and give the Telangana region a socio-economic leg up and create a Telangana Regional Council. Nothing at all has been done on the commission’s recommendations. If the Centre has a stake in keeping the state united, it should have at least moved on the empowering provisions that were suggested. There is no doubt that ultimately the solution has to be political. But such a course must be well-thought-out. Striking deals with the TRS is fraught with danger. There are many MPs and MLAs from Andhra who do not necessarily accept that the TRS speaks for everyone on this issue. The Central and state governments have been faced with protests from pro-Telangana MPs and MLAs who have gone to the extent of resigning on this issue. The Jaganmohan Reddy factor is an added headache for the Congress in a state which was once its stomping ground.
With a large number of MPs from the state, the Congress at the Centre can ill-afford to lose ground there, but that is exactly what is happening. The Centre should have learnt some lessons from the dangers of letting things drift along in danger zones in other parts of the country. The Telangana issue can still be contained and a major initiative based on the Srikrishna report could set the ball rolling. The movement appears to be spinning out of control and soon the Centre may just find that it has too many factions to talk to. This would be disastrous. Hamletian procrastination may work in politics at times, but in the case of the Telangana issue, a clear decision to act must be taken, and taken now.