WikiLeaks: US felt Telangana 'surrender' harmed Congress' image

WikiLeaks: US felt Telangana 'surrender' harmed Congress' image
New Delhi:  By ''surrendering'' to the Telangana statehood demand, the Congress opened a can of worms and came across as a party that appeared ''weak and feeble'' and one that can be ''easily bullied and intimidated by threats.'' This was allegedly the US assessment of the situation in 2009.

In a secret cable written on December 10, 2009, released by WikiLeaks, then US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer said the ramifications of the "Telangana surrender" may go beyond Andhra Pradesh as similar demands that were simmering are likely to get a fresh impetus from the Telangana movement's "overnight success".

Roemer who allegedly wrote the cable a day after Home Minister P Chidambaram announced the formation of a Telangana state, said the Congress is likely to be faced with a floodgate of similar demands from other statehood movements across the country. He added the decision has created a split within the party.

The cable also stated that the Congress appeared to come across as weak and feeble, a party that can be easily bullied and intimidated by threats. This was just six months after winning a decisive electoral mandate.

Roemer also allegedly termed the Government's decision as a "huge success" for the then fasting K Chandrasekhar Rao and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) a party with ''just two members currently in the Lok Sabha and only six in the state assembly, picking and winning the confrontation with the UPA represents a huge success."

The cable added the government ''abruptly caved'' on December 9 and gave the go-ahead for formation of Telangana on the 11th day of Rao's hunger strike.

By conceding on Telangana, Roemer wrote, the Congress has potentially opened up a can of worms which was just emerging from the crisis it faced following the death of its Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in September, 2009. The US diplomat said the Telangana decision could trigger similar demands from the Vidharba region of Maharashtra, Bundelkhand and the Poorvanchal regions of Uttar Pradesh and more obscure nascent statehood movements in other parts of the country.

"The Congress Party (and the UPA government) may already be regretting its Telangana decision as more demands for statehood have come out of the woodwork. The party is split in its stronghold of Andhra Pradesh, and as it is portrayed in the media as weak and spineless, caving at the first signs of trouble at the hands of a politically desperate has-been regional politician,'' the cable says.

Roemer also said Rao's demand for Telangana split the Congress in Andhra with many state legislators and members of parliament supporting his demand and others opposing it. ''Contacts tell us that also at play behind the scenes was
an intense battle for the top spot in the state government between the incumbent chief minister, K. Rosaiah, and his rival Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's son.

"The latter, not unhappy that Rao's fast was creating discomfort for his rival, has encouraged the split within the party on the Telangana issue," the cable says.

Dwelling further on the issue, Roemer also allegedly said the Telangana carving out also raises the "thorny question" of the status of Hyderabad, which falls in Telangana.

"The TRS has clearly said that there could be no Telangana without Hyderabad.  However, Hyderabad is a hub for major businesses of the state including software and pharmaceuticals.

"Hyderabad business is dominated by the Reddy and Khamma communities of the state but their base is the non-Telangana region of the state.

"These politically powerful communities are unlikely to cede Hyderabad to Telangana easily," the cable said.

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