New Delhi/Hyderabad: The Congress leadership at the Centre seems to be caught in a bind over the issue of statehood for Telangana. A meeting of the Congress core group led by Sonia Gandhi ended without any major decisions yesterday. Today, more talks may take place within the Congress and with top Telangana leaders who are in Delhi.
The core group of the Congress - the first attended by Mrs Gandhi since she returned from an operation in the US - met for nearly two hours yesterday, referencing a report submitted to her by Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also in charge of Andhra Pradesh for the Congress.
Mr Azad has spent the last few months touring the state, and meeting with representatives of its three regions - Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana. His report calls for more consultations. But Congress MPs from the region says it is time the party made its stand clear on the issue. "It is shocking to see that the report says more time is needed. The party has to make its stand clear on separate statehood. The survival of the government depends on Congress members from there. Congress ministers' houses have been ransacked, We can't go to our constituencies. It is a people's movement," said Madhu Goud Yaskhi a Congress MP from Nizamabad, adding, "Our last hope is Mrs. Gandhi."
The general strike called by pro-Telangana activists in the region has entered the 19th day. Trains and buses in this part of Andhra Pradesh have been delayed or cancelled and businesses have been forced to shut down. Activists are now increasing their presence and pressure tactics both in Hyderabad and Delhi. Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhara Rao, who is the face of the pro-Telangana movement, was to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj today along with a delegation of Telangana political Joint Action Committee to press for an early decision in favour of the separate statehood. But that meeting is unlikely to happen today.
Sources say the Congress may depute a small team of leaders to travel to Andhra Pradesh for another ground report. After that, a meeting of all political parties could be called by the Home Minister to discuss whether Andhra Pradesh should be divided.
Just as leaders from Telangana are determined to win a new state, politicians from the two other regions of Andhra Pradesh are heavy-set in their opposition to a partition of Andhra Pradesh as it currently exists. The tug of war is pivoted at least partly on who would get Hyderabad - the economically-prosperous state capital that thrives on its IT industry.
Many of the leaders from Telangana have in the last few days positioned themselves in Delhi in anticipation of "a favourable report." Among them are several Congressmen, who met with the government's senior-most minister Pranab Mukherjee late on Thursday night. The Congress is in power in Andhra Pradesh. Its dilemma of whether to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh has to account for its own leaders from Telangana, who are being pressured by voters to quit if they cannot deliver a new state. In a symbolic gesture in July, nearly 100 legislators including ministers, and more than a dozen MPs quit their offices. Their resignations were not accepted on the grounds that they had been made "under duress."
But over the last few days, the tension has been inching its way towards the danger mark. Pro-Telangana activists have been surrounding the homes and office of Congress leaders, a pressure tactic bordering on intimidation.
K Chandrasekhara Rao arrived in Delhi on Friday night. "We are here to meet the honourable Prime Minister and complain regarding ill-treatment of our MLAs, and also to say that our movement is very peaceful and democratic, and today is the 18th day. For the past few weeks, police is brutally behaving and the Chief Minister is behaving like a dictator, so we wanted to see the Prime Minister and explain to him, and also to ask him to expedite the Telangana matter. We are planning to meet Leader of Opposition, Sushma Swaraj. Tomorrow we will take a call on how to go about the meeting... it's a kind of memorandum which we will give to the Prime Minister," KCR said after landing in Delhi on Friday.
In 2009, KCR's 11-day hunger-strike fuelled an aggressive campaign that resonated with students at Osmania University in Hyderabad. Violent protests that threw students into the ring with policemen became a daily feature. And in December 2009, Home Minister P Chidambaram made a surprise announcement that the Centre had agreed to a Telangana state.
However, political parties soon opposed this - leaders from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema said they were not in favour of their state being partitioned. So the government suspended all plans and set up the Srikrishna Committee in February 2010 with the challenging agenda of determining "what all sections of society" feel about the division of their state. The committee delivered its report on the last day of 2010. The 505-page report lists six options, of which it holds the sixth as the most workable - "a united Andhra Pradesh with constitutionally-allocated regional rights to help the socio-economic development of the Telangana region."
Story first published:
October 01, 2011 08:24 IST