Congress may bite Telangana bullet today

The Times Of India
Congress may bite Telangana bullet today
Given the polarizing nature of the statehood debate, chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy is likely to be in Delhi amid reports that he is not happy with the developments.
NEW DELHI: The Congress is expected to bite the Telangana bullet on Tuesday, ending a prolonged on-off suspense over the statehood demand that has cleaved the party in the state.

Shaking off its indecision in the face of scare scenarios predicting a violent reaction in non-Telangana areas, the Congress leadership is set to get allies and the Congress working committee to approve the statehood project.

The CWC decision on Tuesday evening will be a landmark moment as it will mark the beginning of the process of creating a new state a decade after the birth of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The Congress brass is giving the Telangana proposal the green signal despite concern over a backlash and the possible flaring up of other statehood demands like Gorkhaland as it tries to rescue its fading fortunes in Andhra Pradesh.

Congress leaders from east Maharashtra are also looking to revive the Vidarbha statehood demand while UPA partner Ajit Singh has often called for western UP to be hived off into a ‘Harit Pradesh’.

The approach of the 2014 Lok Sabha is the trigger for the Telangana file being moved to the top of the Congress agenda as it is felt that the statehood decision will bring the party back in reckoning in 17 Lok Sabha seats.

Congress has not been moved by anti-Telangana arguments like the possibility of the party becoming subservient to two regional outfits – Telangana Rashtra Samithi and YSR Congress – as it looks to avert a whitewash in a state where it holds 33 of 42 Lok Sabha seats.

A stamp of approval from its allies will reflect a consensus at the Centre while the CWC decision clears the party stance for the first time since an embarrassing retreat on the botched December 9, 2009, announcement on creating Telangana.

Given the polarizing nature of the statehood debate, chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy is likely to be here amid reports that he is not happy with the developments. Having been told by the party leadership about the impending decision, he is under pressure from legislators from non-Telangana regions to try to prevent division of the state.

However, insiders are confident that the storm will blow over and rule out the CM staging a revolt. “The CM has made his position clear. But he will implement what the party high command decides,” said a source close to the CM.

Although it is now determined on creating Telangana, Congress is keeping an eye on how the announcement will impact Gorkhaland where the development can be seen as an opening to press for a separation from Bengal.

Vidarbha is another demand that has currently no momentum on the ground but is alluring for politicians as an emotive plank to seek an endorsement from voters.

The collateral aspects have cast a shadow on statehood for Telangana in the past.

Congress is learnt to have decided to honour the 2009 decision that, coming in the run-up to Lok Sabha campaign, appears dictated by political concerns in Andhra that played a critical role in the formation of the two UPA regimes.

Squeezed between the rebellion of Jaganmohan Reddy and hostility in Telangana, the move to appease the statehood protagonists is aimed at cutting losses.

Tuesday’s meetings will clinch the issue just ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament when principal opposition BJP has begun to pile pressure on the ruling combine in favour of statehood.

The Congress decision would train all eyes on how TDP of Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Congress react to the new situation. The formation of Telangana could trigger a backlash in Coastal and Rayalaseema regions with the party least identified with the decision likely to gain, suggests the conventional wisdom.

The tricky bit of any decision to divide Andhra would be Hyderabad – whether the city will be a joint capital or a Union Territory. Insiders say it would be difficult to separate the capital city from the new state and can be a joint capital until a new capital is developed for the Coastal and Rayalseema areas.

The proposal to club Kurnool and Anantapur of Rayalaseema regions into Telangana is to be clinched too. The move would cleave the state down the middle with 21 Lok Sabha seats each in Telangana and Andhra.

What would the new state be called is another interesting aside, with ‘Hyderabad state’ being a possibility.

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