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.