Centre buys time, Andhra simmers

New Delhi, Jan. 27: The Congress leadership appears to have decided to explore for the time being options other than dividing Andhra Pradesh to deal with the demand for a Telangana state.

Pro-Telangana activists have launched a marathon protest to press the demand for statehood. Calls to MPs to resign have also been issued, raising the possibility of law and order and political turmoil. ( )

"We need more time for consultations with senior leaders of all the three regions of the state (Andhra). The chief minister and the PCC president will also be called for further consultation," Ghulam Nabi Azad, the AICC leader in charge of the state, said after a Congress core committee meeting a day before the self-imposed deadline of January 28.

Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that "consultations are on" and "it may take a little more time to reach the final decision".

Asked if there was a new deadline, Azad said: "No, but we will invite them as early as possible."

The Srikrishna commission, which had looked into the Telangana demand, had proposed, besides bifurcation, an autonomous council on the lines of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and an economic package for the backward region.

The Congress has to also grapple with its own political crisis in the state which helped propel it to power at the Centre twice in the recent past, making the decision on Telangana more difficult for the party.

Had there been no rebellion by Jaganmohan Reddy and had the Congress remained as powerful as it was, the central leadership's approach would have been different. Any decision now is expected to be influenced heavily by the calculations for the 2014 general election.

Sonia Gandhi has been holding discussions over the past few days with leaders such as Azad, P. Chidambaram, Vayalar Ravi, Digvijaya Singh and Ahmed Patel. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is said to harbour reservations about dividing the state at this juncture.

Delhi is worried about the renewal of demands for statehood in Darjeeling and in the Northeast. But the threat of resignation by Andhra MPs has also alerted the Congress leadership to the possibility of instability at the Centre.

The recent Jaipur Chintan Shivir did not discuss the issue. Leaders from the state had asked the high command to take a decision either way without any delay.

Sonia would like to first set her own house in order. Several advisers have suggested changing both the chief minister and the PCC president.

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