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DISADVANTAGE TELENGANA

On a slow boil

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T POINT Political analysts say that in a few years it will be impossible for the Centre to not grant Telengana

First LK Advani and now Mayawati has given the kiss of death to Telangana, at least for the time being. With these two opposition leaders plumping for Telangana - directly or indirectly - the Congress has developed cold feet about bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. This, after actively contemplating on this subject for over a year and not being able to decide on what to do.
"This is an NDA agenda to make electoral gains in Telangana where it has no presence. They want to disturb status quo because in the changed scenario whatever happens will be a gain to them. But why should we fall for it when every seat will count in the 2014 elections?" says an anti-Telangana Congress leader who pointed out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has seen through the opposition ploy and has categorically announced that there can be no Telangana. Advani was in Telangana late last month on his rath yatra proclaiming how his party was for a new state and that it would be the first item on the agenda of the NDA if it came into power in the next elections. Mayawati sounded the bugle by ramming through a resolution in the UP assembly that the state be divided into four.

This, of course, has done nothing to cool frayed nerves in Telangana or even that of Congress MPs from Telangana who raised chants for a separate state on the first day of the winter session of Lok Sabha on Monday. "Our high command does not understand that the more they delay the decision on Telangana the more the chances of the Congress getting wiped out from the region, " says a Telangana region Congress MP. The Congress bosses are worried that the grant of Telangana will repel voters from other parts of Andhra. So there is a delicate balance that has to be managed, made more difficult by the reality that there are 175 assembly seats in Andhra and 119 seats in Telangana. "The odds are stacked against Telangana, " says a political analyst.

Politically, Telangana is at a disadvantage but with each passing day the sentiment associated with the issue is becoming stronger and deeper. Political analysts say that at this rate, in a few years, it will be impossible for the Central government to not grant Telangana, no matter what its implications for the Congress. Some analysts also feel that the fear of the party getting a big zero in Andhra areas (in the event of Telangana happening) is exaggerated and propagated by the business lobby there which controls the political economy of Hyderabad, now a global technology centre with booming land prices. This powerful lobby has convinced the powers-that-be in Delhi that a separate Telangana would be at the mercy of Maoists who will infiltrate it from neighbouring Chattisgarh.

The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) - formed by K Chandrasekhara Rao in 2001 with the express purpose of fighting for a separate Telangana - is not exactly full of fire and brimstone at being denied a new state immediately. KCR, as he is popularly called, is almost reasonable in his utterances. And this, say analysts, is because he wants the sentiment to deepen to the point of no return.

Though the sentiments are strong, it is so mainly amongst the urban middle class of Telangana - lawyers, government officials, teachers and so on. It has not percolated that deeply down to the rural masses - the farmers and the agricultural labourers. But with a prolonged impasse, they too would be sucked into the stir. More importantly, the TRS is conspicuous by its absence in Hyderabad which is the centrepiece of Telangana. The TRS cannot win a single assembly or municipal corporation seat in Hyderabad.

Incidentally, Hyderabad happens to be the bone of contention in this battle and the pressure from the Andhra region not to grant Telangana is because of the large economic interests that people from there have in the happening Hyderabad. TRS is now ramping up its presence in Hyderabad starting with the outskirts and believes that in two years it will become a force to reckon with in the city.

"The TRS was formed in 2001 soon after three new states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal were created in 15 days. That was a political decision of the NDA government and there was a prolonged movement on the ground for a separate state, " says a party insider. "KCR expected the same in Telangana and concentrated on winning elections. But now he realises that a people's movement has to be built. So he is willing to wait, " says a political analyst. This means that the stir for a separate Telangana will continue for a long time with nobody wanting to force a quick solution. The frequent bandhs and slowdowns will tire out citizens and businesses. But that's another story.

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