Will Telangana state finally be a reality?

Hyderabad, July 20 (IANS) Will a separate Telangana state finally be a reality? If the party leaders from Telangana are to be believed, the central leadership has made up its mind to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. They say it is only a matter of time before the party announces its much-awaited decision.

Congress general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh Digvijaya Singh has already gone on record that the consultation process on the Telangana issue had been completed and that the party would soon take a final decision.

The highest decision-making body of the ruling party, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), is expected to meet by month-end to take a final call on the over six-decades-old contentious issue that has triggered political uncertainty since 2009.

The Congress core committee had last week discussed the issue after Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, his deputy Damodar Rajanarasimha and state Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana made their presentations. The chief minister and the state party chief, who come from the Rayalaseema and Andhra regions respectively, made a strong case for keeping the state united, while Rajanarasimha called for an early decision on separate statehood for Telangana.

Since then, Digvijaya Singh has held a series of meetings with various leaders from the state. The meetings, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi's discussions with assembly speaker N. Manohar during the last two days, have given credence to the buzz that the party has made up its mind on Telangana and will be initiating the process by moving a resolution in the state assembly.

With the chief minister, the state Congress chief and other leaders from Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and Andhra) stressing the need to address the issue of Hyderabad, the leadership is believed to be engaged in a final round of consultations.

Several leaders, who are not against the state's bifurcation, want the centre to address the concerns of people of Seemandhra settled in Hyderabad and the entrepreneurs from the two regions. The state Congress chief has sought union territory status for Hyderabad for 25 years.

As the Telangana leaders have rejected the idea, the Congress' central leadership is understood to be actively considering a proposal to make Hyderabad a joint capital of the two states for 5 to 10 years. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and other parties fighting for a separate state are not against the proposal.

A proposal to merge two of the four districts of Rayalaseema with Telangana is also believed to be under the centre's consideration.

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), a key political force in Hyderabad, has backed the idea of merging Kurnool and Anantapur districts with Telangana.

The Telangana region, which comprises 10 districts including Hyderabad, has 17 Lok Sabha seats. The merger of two Rayalaseema districts will take this figure to 21. The other state, likely to be made up of nine coastal Andhra districts and two Rayalaseema districts, will also have an equal number of Lok Sabha constituencies.

Realising that any further delay in taking a decision will affect its prospects in next year's Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has put the issue on the fast-track. There is also a feeling in the party that the opposition from Seemandhra leaders to a separate Telangana is not as strong as it was after the Dec 9 , 2009, statement of then union Home Minister P. Chidambaram that the process for the separate state would be initiated.

The announcement had evoked strong protests in Seemandhra, with public representatives resigning en masse. This forced the centre to put the process on hold, citing the need for a consensus.

Political analysts say the political uncertainty for over three years due to protests in Telangana has made the Congress' central leadership take a call. By claiming credit for carving out a separate state, the Congress hopes to gain in the region.

The Seemandhra leaders also seem have to softened their stand on Telangana. A majority of them have taken the stand that they will abide by any decision of the leadership. A section of the leaders, including some state ministers, are however strongly opposing the state's division.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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