Now that Telangana is a reality, the focus should be on ending uncertainty and creating mechanisms for rational resource-sharing.
The Union Cabinet’s approval for carving out a separate Telangana from Andhra Pradesh (AP) has set the ball rolling for the creation of India’s 29th State. But unlike Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand, whose formation encountered little opposition in their erstwhile parent States, Telangana has inflamed passions, orchestrated in fair measure by rabble-rousing politicians. Also, the deal is not quite done yet. Article 3 of the Constitution requires any new statehood Bill to be referred to the legislature of the existing State before its introduction in Parliament. While the legislature’s views are not binding on Parliament, a rejection of the bifurcation by a majority of Andhra Pradesh MLAs can create an awkward situation for the Centre. It can still go ahead, but the risks of doing so are considerable.
From the very beginning what was required from the Centre while dealing with Telangana was dispassionate statesmanship. But unfortunately, it is political expediency that has characterised its approach to the longstanding demand for a separate State: It is no accident that the Cabinet decision, and also of the main ruling party earlier, came just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha poll. But now that the decision has been taken, the focus should be on minimising tensions and ending the uncertainty that is helpful for neither the people of Telangana nor Seemandhra. The Centre’s ability to mediate successfully will be particularly tested on two issues if Telangana becomes reality. First, the sharing of water and energy resources. The Krishna and Godavari flow into Seemandhra through Telangana. Similarly, coal from the Singareni mines in Telangana fires thermal stations in Seemandhra. On the other hand, Seemandhra has gas and is also power surplus, unlike Telangana. Without a proper framework for dispute resolution that allows for rational resource sharing, there is always the danger of narrow parochial sentiments taking over.
The second potential source of tension is Hyderabad, a major pharma, IT and biotech hub apart from the home for several public sector institutions such as BHEL, ECIL, Nuclear Fuel Complex, Defence Research & Development Laboratory and ICRISAT. While Hyderabad may ‘belong’ to Telangana, the role played by coastal Andhra Pradesh entrepreneurs in its development cannot be ignored. The city’s real strength, indeed, comes from its cosmopolitanism and composite culture that the new ruling class in Telangana should leverage, rather than fomenting an unproductive ‘us-versus-them’ discourse. That Hyderabad will be the joint capital of Telangana and Seemandhra for 10 years should provide sufficient time for creating a brand new capital for the latter. The Centre and the State should work together to ensure it emerges as a vibrant growth centre; this will help to heal the wounds of separation more than people may think.