Sonia Abandons Telangana Initiative
The Telangana crisis is the self-injected political virus, which Sonia Gandhi has inflicted on herself and the Indian National Congress, destroying the electoral viability of the Congress Party in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The highest decision-making apex body of the Congress Party government, the core committee, met to discuss the Telangana crisis on July 06, 2011 evening, for an extraordinarily long time, 20 minutes! In normal times the core committee meets for about two hours.
The Congress core committee decided not to hurry to accept or reject “the demand for the creation of the new State of Telangana” and decided to spend time until 2014, consulting all sections of opinion. The core committee has also decided that the decision on Telangana will be taken, not in isolation, but by clubbing it with the demand of several regions across the country for new states. This decision-making will be done only after the next Lok Sabha elections. In short, the Congress Party has abandoned all thoughts of making any initiative to create the new State of Telangana. Telangana region, including Hyderabad, has 119 MLAs in the 294-MLA Andhra Pradesh Assembly. 103 of the 119 MLAs from Telangana have submitted their resignations to the Speaker. All the 37 Telugu Desam, 11 TRS, 2 BJP, 3 CPI, 3 Independents and 47 of the 54 Congress Party MLAs have resigned. However, the Deputy Chief Minister, 2 Ministers from Hyderabad and 4 MLAs from the Congress Party belonging to Telangana have not resigned.
It is understood that the Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, a Congressman, will be directed by the party high command, after he returns to India from America on July 15, 2011, to reject the resignations of all the 103 MLAs of all the parties. On the ground that they were in a “group atmosphere” and not “individual in nature”. As it is, the Constitution gives the Speaker the unchallenged authority to reject the resignations. The rejection of the resignations will keep the Congress Party’s strength at 173 MLAs in the Assembly, retaining its majority. The state government will thus be safe, for now.
However, it is believed that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar (a Congress MP) will be directed to accept the resignations of nine Telangana MPs of the Congress party, if they insist on not withdrawing their resignations. As it is, along with a Congress MPs, 2 Telugu Desam Party MPs and 2 Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) MPs have also resigned. The government, will wait for the by-elections to these 13 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana within six months from the date of acceptance of the resignations. Most likely, these elections will be held in February 2012.
In the meantime, the Congress president might constitute a “time-pass” committee to spend endless time by interacting with the representatives of all the regions in Andhra Pradesh to try to get a consensus, before formally announcing the abandonment of the Telangana statehood initiative. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on Sonia’s directions, met the leaders of the non-Telangana region on July 06 night, in the attempt to begin the process of abandoning the initiative to create the new State of Telangana. He is likely to meet on July 13, 2011, the delegation of Ministers, MPs and MLAs comprising 50 members from the Andhra and the Rayalaseema regions to hear their “opposition to the splitting of Andhra Pradesh, to create the new State of Telangana”. After that the central government will make an announcement that there is no consensus on creating the State of Telangana, that the central government will continue in its efforts to generate a consensus and that the people of Telangana will have to be patient till such a consensus is arrived at.
The Telangana demand is stuck like a fishbone in the government’s throat. It can’t be swallowed and it can’t be spat out. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is wholly responsible for creating this problem. It is not only haunting this government but if not addressed effectively it will also continue to haunt future governments.
On November 29, 2010, it was pointed out in these columns: “After the death of Rajshekhar Reddy the prevailing political dynastic culture expressed itself as was expected. The late CM’s son, Jagan Mohan Reddy, was an elected MP. The sentiment in the Andhra Congress was overwhelmingly in favour of making him the successor. For no convincing reason Mrs. Sonia Gandhi resisted that move. Perhaps a younger leader to Rahul Gandhi with the strong support base of one of India’s larger states solidly behind him injected envy blended with insecurity in 10 Jan Path… Mrs. Gandhi tried to defuse Jagan Mohan’s strength by recklessly announcing a separate Telangana state without laying proper ground work for an all India policy change. As a result, not only did she create a political mess by destabilising Andhra, the most important Congress bastion in the country, she also alienated the followers of Jagan Mohan Reddy… Events over the past months show that (Jagan Mohan Reddy) has acquired enough strength to create his own mass based party… MLAs will line up to join him… Sonia Gandhi has struck the last nail in the coffin of the Andhra Congress.”
After protests mounted in Telangana, the government appointed the Justice Sri Krishna Commission to prepare a report on the feasibility of creating a Telangana state. The Report was released last December. It offered six options and no solution. Worse, it contained a secret report within it that categorically opposed the creation of a separate Telangana and urged the government to mobilise the media to oppose a separate Telangana! That secret report too became public. Now the chickens have come home to roost. How can the government extricate itself, and the nation, from this intractable problem? There is only one way it can be done. The government should make an announcement containing the following provisions:
First: The government must state that any change in Andhra cannot be contemplated in isolation from the rest of the country. Decisions cannot be taken on an ad hoc basis as has been done in the past. The government therefore must announce the creation of a second States Reorganization Commission to address demands for smaller states throughout the country. The Commission would have to announce its decisions within one year.
Secondly: Meanwhile the government must categorically announce that at the end of this year by when the Commission’s report will be submitted, a separate Telangana state will be constituted. The government should be prepared to make this commitment through a resolution in Parliament.
Thirdly: The government must also allow the proposed Commission to determine the future of all the major metropolitan capitals including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Patna and the rest. It will in the light of the experience of Chandigarh and Delhi examine the feasibility of declaring all these capitals as city states hosting offices of the new states arising from the bifurcation of the existing states.
Fourthly: The creation of smaller states will be achieved only within the boundaries of existing states after discussion and consensus among the respective leaders of the states to be bifurcated.
Doubtless, there would be opposition to this proposal from elements in Andhra. But that opposition would be neutralised by the wide support for the proposal from other parts of the country. Apart from Andhra, there are demands for smaller states in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bengal, Gujarat and J&K. These demands are at present dormant and non-violent. Must the authorities respond only after agitations break out one after another causing unnecessary deaths along the way? A measured national policy to reorganise states is overdue. The major metropolitan capitals have acquired a character of their own to justify city states. Smaller states allow more devolution of power. Smaller states would also make the Centre more powerful. If the government were to propose an all-India approach much of the resentment in Andhra for being singled out for bifurcation would subside.
By Rajinder Puri
In effect, there will be no further initiative to split Andhra Pradesh, at least until the 2014 assembly elections. Andhra Pradesh will remain as it is.The Congress Party does not want to generate hostility in the non-Telangana region by splitting the state. As it is, the state government is safe, even if all the resignations of the Telangana region MLAs are accepted. The Andhra Pradesh Assembly has 294 MLAs. In that the Congress Party has 173 MLAs. With the support of 7 MIM MLAs and 3 Independents, the Congress Party has 183 MLAs. If the resignations of all the Telangana MLAs who have resigned are accepted, then the total strength of the Assembly will be 191 MLAs. The Congress Party will have the support of 135 MLAs. And if all the Telangana resignations are accepted, the Congress Party will have a huge majority to ensure the continuation of the state government.
But, at the Centre, the resignation of the 13 Lok Sabha MPs from Telangana reduces the Manmohan Singh government to a minority. The Lok Sabha has 543 MPs.The Congress Party has 207 MPs. The Trinamool Congress has 19 MPs. The DMK has 18 MPs. The NCP has 9 MPs. The National Conference has 3 MPs. Kerala Muslim League has 2 MPs. Kerala Catholic Congress has 1 MP. The government has 259 MPs represented in the government.
Twenty MPs from small, tiny and one- MP parties and Mulayam’s 22 MPs and Mayawati’s 21 MPs together totalling 63 MPs are giving outside support to the central government, thus ensuring its survival.
The resignation of the 9 Telangana MPs drops the Congress Party to a tally of 198 MPs and the UPA tally drops to 250 MPs, in the Lok Sabha of 534 MPs. The Manmohan Singh government will thus be a minority government, surviving with the unpredictable outside support of slippery parties.
For the Congress, the political implications will be the following: The Indian National Congress will now be perceived as the enemy number one in the Telangana region, if the new state of Telangana is not created. The Congress Party has, as of now, lost all the votes in the Telangana region. On the other hand, the people of the Andhra and the Rayalaseema regions will never forgive Sonia, if the state is split.
By P Siddhartha Reddy