Unresolved issues, personal ambitions mar the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh

The State of Telangana has finally turned real. The aspirations of the people of the region for a separate State, voiced through endless agitations, suicides and political struggles spread over five decades were fulfilled on Tuesday by the Lok Sabha, which passed the AP Reorganisation Bill.

The demerger of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, itself the first State to be formed in 1956 on linguistic basis, will lead to the creation of the 29{+t}{+h} State with 10 districts, and Hyderabad as the joint capital for 10 years.

The residuary Seemandhra region will have 13 districts.

If Jawaharlal Nehru described the integration of Telangana with Andhra in 1956 as the marriage of a reluctant bride, its bifurcation from Andhra Pradesh in 2014 is marred by huge political drama, enacted by the Congress and the BJP that culminated with an unprecedented passage of the Bill through a voice vote and short discussion behind closed doors in the Lok Sabha.

The acrimonious division of Andhra Pradesh by the Congress-led UPA Government — especially the manner in which it pushed through the Bill since the CWC resolution of July 30, 2013, chaired by Sonia Gandhi — lent a political colour to the whole saga.

Movement of 1969

The 1969 Separate Telangana movement, championed by the Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS) under Marri Chenna Reddy, who went on to become the CM of AP twice, came closest to realising the dream.

After a lull that lasted two decades, the movement was revived in 2001 by the Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS), floated by K Chandrasekhara Rao, who quit the TDP after being denied a ministry by Chandrababu Naidu. His political manoeuvring, steadfast approach, including the fast unto death in September 2009, precipitated matters in favour of a separate State.

In the past decade, most political parties — Congress, TDP, CPI and YSR Congress — have tried their best to derive political mileage in successive elections through open alliances with the TRS.

Counter agitation

The ‘dithering and delaying’ tactics of the Congress and the dual strategy of the TDP (seeking justice for both regions over the years) have pushed the State into political chaos and affected its economic growth.

The ‘fast track’ decision of the Congress resulted in a counter agitation in the Seemandhra region, reasonably spontaneous and led by local leaders.

The sporadic protests demanding a united AP threatened to rise into a strong movement over 65 days, before it started losing steam with political parties jumping into the bandwagon and trying to hijack it for political gains.

Dissents started brewing and baits of discussions addressing their concerns by the Congress started weakening it.

Leaders at the forefront

This led to the constitution of a Group of Ministers to focus on contentious issues such as Hyderabad, river waters, education and power.

At another level, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu launched himself into an all-out effort, lobbying with all national parties, including getting close to the BJP for an alliance. AP Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy projected himself as an integrationist, rallied Congress legislators, threatening to float a separate party, sat on dharna in Delhi, loudly articulating that the party would bite the dust in the State.

YSR Congress chief, YS Jaganmohan Reddy competed with Naidu in trying to gather support for a united Andhra cause and opposed the Centre.

Ultimately, their political scheming and efforts seem to have not yielded fruit. In the end, analysts feel the division has been hastily thrust on a progressive State, instead of amicably settling issues and laying the ground for both States to grow rapidly.

(This article was published on February 18, 2014)
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