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Telangana and Beyond – Part II

Miffed at the turn of events after the endorsement of Congress Working Committee on Telangana state, a senior Congress leader said that the “sum and substance of our party’s work style has changed. Previously we used to draw a bigger line parallel to a smaller line instead of erasing it. Now, we have started creating bigger problems to solve a smaller problem.”

The turn of events during the last 10 days appear to be pointing towards that. The Congress party appears to be playing a dangerous game on Telangana all over again. It has been dangling a ‘lollypop’ for one party while “mutton chop” for the other at the same time. The Congress will not find it easy to solve this in a hurry. On the contrary, the Telangana tangle would keep getting entangled in many knots.

On the one hand, the Congress President has  created four member committee headed by Defence Minister A K Antony and assisted by Ahmed Patel, M Veerappa Moily and AICC General Secretary in charge Digvijaya Singh to look into the concerns of the people arising out of this decision and they would keep it going til  2014 elections are over. That is what TRS leader K Chandrashekhar Rao wants. Now the Congress party will go to Telangana voters saying they have given Telangana. On the other side, they will say, they prevented it and would keep encouraging united Andhra Pradesh agitators from the backdoor. The statements of leaders on both ends of the spectrum in Andhra Pradesh make it amply clear that the Congress party is playing from both ends.It appears to have managed some quid pro quo from both ends and the sage of agitation and protest would continue for some more time.

The naked truth is that the Congress party is playing a dangerous game and this would continue even after the next elections At the same time, it won’t be easy for the BJP and even TDP to give up Telangana plank either.In the process, Andhra Pradesh seems to be destined to be comprehensively screwed for ever. This kind of brinkmanship would not only break the social and regional fabric of Andhra from within, it would also have a disastrous impact on his business and economic interests.

The biggest suffer in the whole game has been the AP Chief Minister K Kiran Kumar Reddy who appears to have been ‘prevailed upon” to accept the Congress High command’s decision to bifurcate the State and oversee the division. He vented out his anguish saying “ I am neither opposing nor welcoming the decision on Telangana. My party has taken the decision but the central government should address the concerns, problems and issues affecting the people of all the regions in the state before going ahead with the decision”. It is obvious that the Chief Minister is doing the chorus despite a huge loss of face and credibility because the Congress party wants him to and he has little choice but to follow the diktat.

In this context, it is interesting to see a group of political pundits suddenly springing up to sing hosannas in favour of smaller states as if they had been asked to. None of these social scientists were heard till last fortnight. But now they have started singing the chorus in a well- synchronized and orchestrated way.

The argument  put forward is that “our states are bloated and this is one reason they are not manageable. If India’s states were nations, 10 of the world’s top 21 countries would come from India. Uttar Pradesh, with more people than Pakistan, would be the world’s fifth largest country. The Chief Minister of that state rules as many people as the Chancellor of Germany and the Prime Ministers of France and Britain put together.”

Another commentator said “We have five states each with a larger population than Europe’s largest nation, Germany, which has 80 million citizens. Maharashtra has almost twice as many people as Europe’s second largest nation, France. Rajasthan has more people than the United Kingdom. Karnataka, our ninth largest state, has more people than Italy. “

On the face of it, there is some merit in these suggestions given that at least 10 states in the Indian union are mammoth in size. For example,the population of Uttar Pradesh is  200 million, Maharashtra 112 million, Bihar 104 million,West Bengal 91 million, Andhra Pradesh 84 million, Madhya Pradesh 72 million, Tamil Nadu 72 million, Rajasthan 68 million, Karnataka 61 million and has Gujarat 60 million people. Even India’s 16th largest state Haryana has more people than Australia.

On the other hand, the average American state with a governor and a local legislature has six million people. The average Indian state with a chief minister and an assembly has 42 million citizens or seven times as many. The average number of people in a UK constituency is 97000 while the average in India is 22 lakh.

Secondly, India’s citizens, according to a few commentators, are under-represented in Parliament and Assembly and under-administered by the civil service. Each of our states is run by an elite corps of overworked bureaucrats. There are 3,384 Indian Administrative Service officers running 28 states, an average of 120 officers per state, who have to deal with files for dozens and often hundreds of programs.it clearly indicates that the problem is the opposite – not enough government because states are too big. For many citizens, the administration is distant and unapproachable and one of the sources of the problem is the size of the state.

If that was the case, then no one knows what prevented the Union Government from instituting the Second States Reorganization Commission which could have looked into such practical problems and suggested better ways to bifurcate some of the existing states and make them efficiently governable. A lot of ground could have been covered by now even if such a Commission had been instituted after 9th December 2009.

In this context, the state of Digvijaya Singh has become a laughing matter. He had claimed that the entire process about the formation of State would be completed within six months. Perhaps he forgot to explain that in the normal course, this matter would cross through seven stages and that would take a minimum of 18 to 20 months. But more than, a few other questions remain unanswered:-

1.     What is the locus standi of Congress Working Committee (CWC) in announcing the State of Telangana.? The CWC had made such rumbling in 2001 and 2004 as well but what happened?

2.     The Union Cabinet should have taken up the decision on it immediately after the announcement. It has not been done till now.

3.     The Telangana matter could have been brought into the current session of parliament. But Union Home Minister put cold water on that saying it would be taken up in the Winter session of Parliament. Yet AICC General Secretary in charge of Karnataka said that the entire process would be completed within six months. Was he playing to the gallery as he normally does?

4.      Did the Congress party realize about the chain reaction in other parts of the country? We have been seeing the state of affairs in West Bengal and the north east now.  Agitation for Bodoland and Gorkhaland has brought the normal life to a standstill.

5.      There are other states where a break-up might create more problems than solutions. Jammu & Kashmir is particularly difficult because Ladakh is Buddhist and Jammu has a large Hindu population, while the Valley is now almost entirely Muslim. Breaking up the state will be like Partition because it will be along religious lines. It remains to be seen if any government will want to experiment with a smaller state there?

6.     The Congress party had also announced that Hyderabad would remain the common capital of both Telangana and Seemandhra for a period of 10 years. That means, Hyderabad would become a Union Territory. It remains to be seen if either party would agree for that.The issue would become difficult to solve because of the asset of Hyderabad. Hyderabad powers the economy of the state and contributes much of its local taxes.

7.     There are still bigger issues like water and power sharing, employment and status of the people born in Hyderabad, creation of IAS,IPS and other central Services cadres which need a thorough examination .

8.       What happens to status of those people from various parts of the state who converged in Hyderabad and established themselves in the field of health, education, private employment and many other private sectors?

9.      How about other professionals like Doctors, Advocates, IT professionals and other people who made Hyderabad as their base and where would they go now? What would happen to the fate of more than 1,2 lakh students who have been studying in various specialist institutions and are forced to go back to their places because of this simmering agitation and violence across the state.?

The biggest problem that the Centre would be facing in the coming days would be “ water sharing” between Telangana State and  Seemandhra. We have already seen what has happened between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on cauvery water dispute and Karnataka and Andhara Pradesh on Krishna water sharing.  One wonders if the Congress party is preparing to create some more trouble spots in the name of political expediency.

At the moment, the biggest challenge before the Congress party is that while the Rayala-Andhra region erupts with violence against division of the State, Telangana is witnessing a simmering anguish within the TRS for a different reason.

The fear especially of the TRS leaders stems from the fact that the TRS is asked to merge with the Congress as a quid pro quo to the creation of the new state. If this happens, the leaders who spent a fortune nursing their constituencies have no guarantee of continuing. They argue if the TRS ceases to exist, the Congress will take over and it will have its pet agenda and people. “What happened to the PRP of Chiranjeevi will happen to us,” remarked a TRS MLA sullenly. This is the reason for the subdued joy in the Telangana region on the announcement of a separate state. While common masses are unaffected, the leaders are in trouble.

The party leaders say in private they have spent huge sums to nurture their constituencies and to ensure tickets for their seats. It is common knowledge that the candidates have to shell out money for getting tickets. They don’t know where they would find themselves once the party goes out of its current leadership Most of it may be rendered redundant if the party merges with the Congress. This is the reason many TRS MLAs are taking anticipatory bail—joining the Congress camp to be on the safe side. Some eight MLAs are reported to have talked with the Congress leaders in Delhi and more may follow suit.  TRS MP from Medak Vijayashanti has already kicked the bucket and many more may follow her in the coming days.

The biggest cause of worry is that the overall economic development of Andhra pradesh would go for a toss and no political party knows how to arrest that in the name of Telangana. In other words, the Telangana cauldron would continue to simmer in the coming days. However, it remains to be seen how much the Congress would party benefit from this. It is a big question if it would be able to retain even half number of Lok Sabha seats than what it had got in 2009.

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