July 2013
Srikrishna Report

Read the full text of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee Report here.

The Rise of Telangana

A high-voltage political battle has broken out on the Telangana statehood issue in Andhra Pradesh in the run-up to the 2014 general elections. M.R.

"It is not a border issue, it is inter-dependability": AP Congress Minister Dr. S. Shailajanath

Unfazed by the pro-Telangana State proponents, Dr. S. Shailajanath, an unassuming but key Minister in the Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress government, in-charge of School Education, strongly reiterates the case for a united Andhra Pradesh. Excerpts from an exclusive interview he gave to M.R. Venkatesh in Hyderabad recently: THC: Do you think the Congress can no longer delay its decision on Telangana, as it is now seen as a core issue in the run-up to the 2014 elections? Dr. Shailajanath: No, I wouldn’t say that. The time has come to take a decision on the future of the State. It may be divided or be like this, unified. But it is definitely a core issue in the elections in both the areas. I agree with that. Even the recent survey by The Hindu [the CNN-IBN-The Hindu poll conducted by CSDS], says that 63% of the people [respondents] in Telengana are demanding for the ‘T’ State, while more than 70% in coastal Andhra and over 60% in Rayalaseema region are for a united State. So, people are eagerly waiting to see what happens. But the UPA government (in Delhi) stands for a united State; because this has been given by the Congress party those days; both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi stood for a united State. Today also, a united State of Andhra Pradesh will bring more electoral benefits for the party. THC: But there are reports that the government is favourably considering Telengana. Dr. Shailajanath: No, these are just hearsay and some media reports. But till today, this minute, no responsible person [in the Central Government] has opened his/her mouth, for or against, on this issue. THC: What is your stand on the Srikrishna Committee’s six options on the T-issue and which is the most practical to implement? Dr. Shailajanath: They [the Committee] have already disclosed that it is the sixth option which can be implemented with the widest consensus. They have said that it should remain a united State, and whatever grievances Telengana region people have, we will sit across the table and address all those issues. THC: But do you think the Congress will implement the Srikrishna Committee’s sixth option? Dr. Shailajanath: I hope so, because the Srikrishna Committee was set up by the Congress-led UPA government only. Basically, problems related to formation/division of States are the concern of the Central government. So, it is a problem of governance, of the administration. It is in that backdrop that the Government of India appointed the Srikrishna Committee. It has given its report. Definitely, they will take a decision. Even our party in-charge of the State, Mr. Digvijaya Singh, has said that they will take into consideration the Srikrishna Committee report. THC: What are your objections to the Telangana State? They say they are only asking for their original State with Hyderabad as the capital. Dr. Shailajanath: You can’t reply to this in two or three words. We strongly believe in the State remaining united. Please go back and see what the scene was in those days when the two States were there. But it is only in Andhra Pradesh in the last four to five decades, that particularly the Dalits, the OBCs, weaker sections, Muslim minorities and women, have seen vast development in society, in both financial and social aspects. There is no doubt that this was possible only in a united Andhra Pradesh. They are also safer in this united State. THC: But your own Congress MPs and MLAs from the two regions are divided over the Telangana issue. Dr. Shailajanath: It is the greatness of the Congress party. It is the most democratically functioning party. So they give a choice to all the stakeholders to deliberate on the issue and speak their views. Ours is not a party like the Telugu Desam or Jaganmohan Reddy’s party. It is a democratic party under the great leadership of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi; we work democratically. So this dissent is the greatness of the Congress party. THC: Will the Congress high command’s position be finally accepted by all? Dr. Shailajanath: They are repeatedly saying that they will deliver a good result, a good end. I hope that the good end will always be a united Andhra Pradesh, because it is only in a few districts that the TRS problem is there, maybe not more than five districts. In the remaining, it is the sway of the Congress party and other opposition parties. So, I think sentiment alone cannot give a new State. THC: Alternately, do you think the Rayala-Telangana proposal is workable? Dr. Shailajanath: You see, at this time, I am thinking of only one, single line; that is, nothing is acceptable except united Andhra Pradesh. THC: If the Centre concedes Telangana, how will the government cope with the backlash, for there is a fear that coastal Andhra will again erupt into lawless activities. Dr. Shailajanath: Definitely, the recent history is there. On that day, Dec 9, 2009, after they [the Centre] announced [the intent to form a separate Telangana State], without any prodding or motivation from the leadership, for 10 to 15 days the entire coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema was paralyzed. If the time comes again, they will agitate more; definitely, whenever a threat comes to them [people of those two regions], they will react. THC: But will your government act effectively if Parliament passes a law by majority? Dr. Shailajanath: I am not going that far. We hope the State will remain like this only. THC: You expect the status quo to remain? Dr. Shailajanath: Yes, definitely. It is not that kind of a simple issue, or a border dispute or anything like that. It is really not a dispute. It is an issue of inter-dependability. The dependability is from region to region. For example, in Telengana, they are utilising more than 5,000 million units (MU) of power on an average till today. But they are producing only 2,000 to 3,000 MUs, like that. For their lift irrigation schemes in future, they will need another 5,000 to 7,000 MU of electricity. It is impossible... because the Godavari river is always beneath; they are upland. So, they are always on lift irrigation. Like this if you see, every party of the State is dependent on each other. THC: How will you convince the people in Telangana that a unified Andhra Pradesh is better for all? Dr. Shailajanath: This is not the first incident in the history of Andhra Pradesh. First, for the unity of the Telugu people, the first voice came from Telengana only; before the formation of the State of Andhra Pradesh after dividing from Tamil Nadu, we came into the Andhra State. From the region of Telengana they demanded and then both the Assemblies passed a resolution for unification. Later, we faced two agitations, ‘Jai Telengana’ and ‘Jai Andhra’. In 1971, I think, the Andhra people agitated more, staged a bigger agitation than this. But on that day Indira Gandhiji said, without any doubt, that the State must remain united. To give further clarifications, the great leader on that day in the Parliament made a speech on this State. So, this is not new to the State. But any problem, we will definitely sort out across the table.

Time for the ‘T-State’ has come: TRS leader K. T. Rama Rao

At just 37 years, the articulate K. T. Rama Rao, MLA of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) from Karimnagar, the hotbed of the Telangana movement, and son of the party’s founder-leader, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, has everything going for him. A management graduate from the U.S., Mr. Rao poured out his convictions on the need for a Telangana State in an exhaustive, exclusive 90-minute interaction with M.R. Venkatesh and Sapatrshi Bhattacharya at his Banjara Hills residence in Hyderabad. Excerpts from the interview: THC: Amidst the latest reports from New Delhi, do you think the time for creation of Telangana or the ‘T’ State has come? K.T. Rama Rao: Absolutely. We believe that the Union Government has now reached a position where it has to take a call, and bite the bullet on Telangana. We believe it is time. And if I may also remind you, this is a promise that was made by the UPA government on the floor of the House in December 2009. The UPA government had categorically said that Telangana will be formed as the 29th State of the Indian Union. The time is ripe. And we see that our brothers from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have reconciled also. We can see that in spite of all the media speculation, there is neither much resistance nor apprehension as there was three years back. We believe Telangana has to be delivered at this juncture. THC: The Srikrishna Committee has given six options on this issue. How realistically can the government go ahead on deciding this issue? K.T. Rama Rao: I would like to remind you that the First States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) set up in 1953 had categorically recommended to the Indian government that Telangana should be formed or retained as a separate entity. So, it goes to show that this demand for the ‘T’ State is nothing new. And this has also been endorsed as a viable and justifiable demand. The Srikrishna Committee lost the confidence of the people by actually including what is called a secret chapter, which talks about how to suppress a democratic movement. Therefore, we refuse to accept what the Committee says; we would rather go by what the people of Telangana have said on numerous occasions in the form of numerous protests over the last five plus decades. THC: What about the proposal to merge four districts of Rayalaseema, which faces the same problem of socio-economic backwardness with Telangana, to form ‘Rayala-Telangana’ as a via-media? K.T. Rama Rao: Look, our demand is straight; we demand a reinstatement or a demerger of the geographical entity that was merged with the Andhra State back in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh. Under the guise of linguistic basis, Andhra State has prospered, but has exploited the Telangana region over the last five plus decades. So, today to come with a sort of via-media solution, whatever be the pretext, would not be acceptable to us. It will be Telangana as we see it today, with 10 districts and Hyderabad. That is the demand of the people and that is what the Union government should respect. THC: But coastal Andhra people are concerned as they have contributed to the development of united AP with Hyderabad as a hub. Now, if you take away the heart, then what remains? K.T. Rama Rao: If I may remind you, Hyderabad in 1947 was the fifth largest city and it is the fifth largest city in 2013 as well. So to say that Hyderabad has developed by being in a combined State is itself foolhardy; it is a statement that smacks of arrogance, a selfish, self-serving attitude and nothing more. The demographic expansion has happened here as it has happened elsewhere. So to say that Hyderabad’s status is controversial, is wrong. Hyderabad has become a global city with a cosmopolitan fabric. There is no reason why our fellow brothers from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra should be apprehensive. There is also no question of a new Union Territory coming up. The Chandigarh model will also not apply here as there is no geographical contiguity (with coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) and today, instead of taking it as a challenge, they should take it as an opportunity to build a new, wonderful capital city. Look at Naya Raipur coming up in Chhattisgarh. The idea that Hyderabad could be a joint capital or a common capital (when the State is divided) is not pragmatic. I am sure the people of Andhra would want their administration to be much closer to them. When greater Maharashtra was bifurcated and Gujarat was carved out, the Gujarati investors who had invested heavily in Bombay had made the same demand. But then, did not Bombay remain in Maharashtra? THC: Even if Telangana is conceded, what about the backlash from the other regions and fears of the T-State becoming a new breeding ground for Naxals? K.T. Rama Rao: Because of a backlash from Seemandhra (that is Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) that Telangana should not be given, it is really unfortunate. When people talk of a majority opinion to create Telangana, I would ask them, would you not need consensus for the continuation of status quo also? Would you rather crush them [people of Telangana], impose your will and ensure they continue in the status quo of a united set-up? Even at the time of the creation of ‘Vishalandhra’, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru likened it to a matrimonial alliance at the time of the merger. If this marriage works, great; if it doesn’t work, there is always an integral scope for divorce. The situation in the State today is that even the Congress party that rules the State is vertically divided on regional lines. As far as the Naxal menace is concerned, if we were able to contain it in Andhra Pradesh, we will definitely be able to contain it better in Telangana. Again, to say creation of a new State will open a Pandora’s Box of demands for smaller States, is really insulting to us. We are not seceding from the country; we are asking [for Telangana] within the confines of Indian Constitutional guarantees. We have lot of affection for the people who have made Hyderabad their home. This is an emotional issue and that is why KCR in the last 12 years has done a tight-rope act. Let us divide as two States and let us both prosper. Look at the example of the Ambani brothers. Eventually, when Telangana is born, Hyderabad has to be the economic engine that drives Telangana tomorrow. So we cannot have disturbances in Hyderabad of any kind. In fact, any kind of disturbance in Hyderabad will basically suffocate Telangana. THC: You talk of political compulsions in a coalition era. But is there also not a regional element in your demand? K.T. Rama Rao: No, the demand for Telangana will only strengthen India. It will showcase to the world that we are not narrow-minded, that we are not confined to this thinking of language-basis States, or to this thinking that we have selective identities. In fact, what we have been saying and what we have been propagating is the cosmopolitan fabric of Hyderabad and Telangana in general. At the same time, we are asserting our regional identity. To equate the Telangana movement with any other separatists’ movement will be an over-simplification.

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