Hyderabad: Soon after the Congress Working Committee announced a new Telangana state, K Chandrasekhar Rao, chief of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti or TRS had said earnestly, "Andhra people need not worry. They will be safe, they are our brothers...We will cooperate with them."
Only four days later, KCR as he is known, has made a controversial statement at odds with that sentiment. Speaking to reporters in Telugu, the TRS leader suggested that all government employees belonging to the coastal and southern districts of Andhra Pradesh who have illegally taken jobs that belong to Telangana people, must go back to the region they belong to.
He also promised that all employees on contract who belong to the Telangana region will be regularised.
Technically, KCR is right. A government order famously called GO 610 had in 1985 identified that 59,000 employees belonging to regions outside Telangana had taken jobs that should have come to people of Telangana. They were to be sent back.
The perception that jobs that should have come to locals have been taken away by 'outsiders' has been one of the main grouses of people who were fighting for a separate Telangana state. They believe as on today at least 1.5 lakh locals have been denied jobs that have been taken away by 'outsiders'.
After GO 610, the Girlani Committee had in 2005 specified criterion on the basis of local and non-local would be defined.
Government employees from outside Telangana but living here have been worried about being asked to go back once the state is divided. KCR's statement sharpens the 'us versus them' perception, putting people of the two regions in adversarial positions.
Devi Prasad of the Telangana Non-Gazetted Officers Association says they are not demanding that non-locals must be sent back. "Our fight was against the government for a separate state. The fight is not between us as people," he says.
The decision on Telangana has triggered protests in the two other regions of the state - collectively known as Seemandhra - where people favour a united Andhra Pradesh. They fear that a split will leave them with much less access to resources and opportunities.
Many people from these regions work and live in the capital city of Hyderabad, which, under the formula suggested by the Congress will be a common capital for ten years and then will be part of the new Telangana state, while the other state will have to look for its own capital city.
The raison de etre of Mr Rao's party was to ensure that a separate Telangana state be carved out of Andhra Pradesh. He has been the face of the Telangana movement in recent years; his hungerstrike in 2009 for the cause triggered a resurrection of the demand in the shape of violent protests and demonstrations that forced the Centre to promise a new state.
So while his party holds only 17 of the 119 Assembly seats from the Telangana region in the current Andhra Pradesh Assembly, KCR expects to be at the forefront of political activity and government formation when a new state is created.
The Congress has made overtures suggesting that he merge his party with it; a suggestion that KCR, since Monday's announcement, repeatedly pushed aside to be considered later.