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The Telangana problem – how much more can the Congress mishandle ?




Looking at the mess of Telangana, one would be mistaken for thinking that India has not had a division of a state before. But consider the following. A large poor state (with some horrible leadership that almost took everybody in the state to an equal poverty level) was faced with the demands to split off another state that would take away most of the mineral resources. You would have expected such a division to cause huge problems, but the separation of Jharkand from Bihar happened much easier than the tensions and violence that have accompanied the process for Telangana. A major factor for this is the public perception that the Congress was not playing with a straight hand, and that all its steps were done as part of political gambles. This is a known argument, but makes sense repeating. So, when it seemed that Jagan Reddy was riding a strong wave and capitalizing on the goodwill generated by his father YSR (who also generated lots of material stuff besides goodwill for his son), the Congress was worried about being able to get Lok Sabha seats from Andhra Pradesh. Solution – agree to the partition of Andhra, and expect that the grateful people of Telangana would give a majority of their seats to the Congress.
However, there was a consequent outcry of opposition from the rest of Andhra – most of it not out of any patriotic love for the Telangana region, but because the city of Hyderabad (which has a substantial chunk of the economy of the state) is located entirely within the region of Telanaga, and that would be a huge loss for the remaining part of Andhra. So, a wide-spread agitation started, and surprisingly was tacitly supported by the Congress chief Minister (Kiran Reddy) in order to claim some sort of role in opposing this split (he would not be made the chief minister of Telanaga and Jagan Reddy would not give him a chance of becoming the chief minister of Andhra again).

But the Congress was determined to go ahead with its electoral plan and started the process, even though there was a lot of opposition. However, the pace of implementation and attention to detail makes you wonder whether the Congress is really serious. For such a critical decision, there are so many areas of conflicts that need to be resolved such as the status of Hyderabad, Andhra people working in Hyderabad, water resources division, and numerous others. All these remain open, and only in the recent past has there been any attempt to start to discuss such issues (but one does not sense a feeling of urgency and seriousness in trying to resolve such issues), which makes you wonder as why the Congress is not paying any attention to resolving some of these issues in a way that everybody agrees.
The biggest problem currently is of the timeline. Even though the agreement of the state assembly is not mandatory, it is still a step in the overall process. This current UPA Government is on its last leg with probably one more session of Parliament left. And it is only now that the Congress decided to get the President to send the Telanagana process to the Andhra assembly, and whether they agree or not, they need to pass on the decision by end Jan. Which means that there will only be one-session left, a proper lame-duck session with the UPA living in a moral minority. And for advocates of Telanagan, this is the one session where the bill for Telanaga will need to be passed. However, for this, the Government needs to ensure that they have adequate support to get this bill passed, and already you have Jagan Reddy going around to other parties and giving reasons why they should not pass a bill. If it turns out that because of all this, the bill is not passed, then the Congress will really be in a soup – Jagan Reddy taking the cream in the Andhra part, and an anti-Congress wave in the Telanaga region.




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