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The mess in Telangana and the rest of Andhra (Seemandhra) – Avoidable




Right now we are seeing a huge mess ongoing in the entire Telangana and the rest of Andhra. There have been the divisions of states before, and yet none of these have been handled as badly as this one has been, and one is not sure right now about whether the worst has been reached or whether the agitation will continue before things get better finally. There have been other cases where new states have been formed from existing states, with the last such states to be formed as a result of division being the states of Jharkand, Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand. I remember that time, where the division was accomplished much smoother, and there was not this kind of mess that is happening right now. When one considers the case of Bihar, where the new state of Jharkand took away most of the mineral-bearing parts of the state (and the Bihari Government joked that minerals have been taken away and flood bearing parts have been left in Bihar) leading to demands from the state for some kind of preferential economical treatment, one wonders why this current mess is so bad.
There are a number of people who would come up to say that the separation of Telangana would always be bitter, since Telangana had been demanding this separation for the past many decades and the movement by the TRS has really caught some steam in the past 5-7 years. In fact, the TRS chief had got some political position in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh primarily because of this stand and had even broken off with the Congress because it was seemingly not moving ahead with the process of separation. And then there is the matter of Hyderabad. Hyderabad has a sizable chunk of the economic strength of the current state of Andhra Pradesh and there have been a lot of protests about how handing over Hyderabad to the new state of Telangana would have a bad impact on the remaining portions of Andhra Pradesh. One cannot use the example of Chandigarh which is the common capital of Punjab and Haryana since Hyderabad is totally located within the territory of Telangana and the remaining part of Andhra Pradesh (called Seemandhra) does not have any physical connectivity to Hyderabad. So, it was always within the realm of decision making that Hyderabad would always be with Telangana.
However, the biggest problem with decision making has been the lack of transparency and absolutely no effort to involve more stakeholders in the decision making process, in order to ensure that most of the major stakeholders have a huge stake in the actual decision making. But, right from the initial approval by Chidambaram many years ago for creating the state of Telangana and then the retraction once there was a backlash, the policy by the UPA Government in this regard has no openness, no involvement of people from all over the state, and then suddenly you have the Government worrying about the backlash that is happening in the region of Seemandhra in this decision making. The protesters want this decision to be reversed, but most of them do not want to lose Hyderabad.

If there is anybody to blame, I would want to blame Jagan Reddy. The state of Andhra Pradesh is a vital state for the Congress, with the late YSR using his corrupt practices to generate huge amount of money but was also very popular. After his sudden death, in another continuation of dynastic practices (and maybe in an effort to ensure that all the generated money is safe), the son of YSR staked claim. However, the Congress cannot stand any other leader making any sort of demand and hence Jagan was refused. After some time, he finally raised the banner of revolt and walked out of the Congress, claiming the mantle of the popularity of his father, YSR. By-elections and many polls showed the increased popularity of Jagan except in the Telangana region. With Jagan in Seemandhra and TRS in Telangana being popular, the Congress was looking to lose the 30+ Lok Sabha seats it had won in the previous election, and this would be bit setback. There was a need to atleast make the best out of the bad options, and to stake a claim for the 17 seats in Telangana. With this kind of calculation, it was clear from that point on that the decision to create Telangana was inevitable, and it has been progressing ever since. At one point of time, the calculation was that TRS would align with Congress in Telangana, and then Jagan (being pursued over all the corruption cases) would finally settle with the Congress and the Congress would sit pretty.
The problem for the Congress is that everyone knows this, the other parties, as well as the citizens. And both Jagan and Naidu could see that there is a lot to be gained by crying over the seeming loss to Andhra with the split of Telangana, and hence they jumped into the ship protesting against the decision (they may have supported Telangana earlier in some way, but the Congress to cry over this turn-around is sheer hypocrisy, since the Congress stand is pure political and nothing else). So, this protest in the Seemandhra region has caught full force, with shut-down of power generation, general hartal like conditions, and most problematic for the Congress, their leaders in Seemandhra are faced with the full brunt of public anger. I was reading some media reports, and many of the Congress leaders have not even tried to interact with the people from their constituency, and hence are trying to ride the anger by protesting (but protesting against a decision of the High Command will not really get them anywhere). Even the Congress Chief Minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy is leading the rebellion push, but the party is not able to take a decision on when to kick him out, but the fact that he is not really trying to control the situation is pretty bad. Even though he was a non-entity when he was made the chief minister, he and many others realize that even though they cannot take on the Congress high command, their positions in their own constituencies is severely impacted for now, with others egging on the crowds against the Congress leaders from Seemandhra.
And the apprehensions of people ? Well, many of them are genuine, and are problems that need to be resolved. However, there is no plan from the Congress side about what will be done (saying “Have faith in us” is not a plan) to handle the issues about educational institutions mostly being located in Hyderabad, water issues, high proportion of tax collection from Hyderabad, and so on; there is no plan presented, and one even doubts whether the Congress Government has even tried to think through these problems and present some solutions that would pacify the crowd.




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