In a momentous decision, the Congress-led UPA government announced the formation of Telangana, India’s 29th state, concluding a 40-year peoples’ movement led by the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS). Hyderabad will serve as the joint capital of Andhra and Telangana for 10 years. The decision has attracted controversy with seven Congress MPs from the Seemandhra region tendering their resignation after the announcement. What makes Telangana a political hot potato?
A Brief History
The roots of the Telangana separatist movement lie in the unwilling merger of Telangana, part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State with Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra, part of Madras State, by the State Reorganization Committee in 1956 based on a Gentlemen’s Agreement. The peoples’ demand for Telangana stems from perceived violations of this agreement by the Andhra Pradesh government.
While the Telangana agitation began in 1969, it gained traction in 2010 after the appointment of the Srikrishna Committee to look into the feasibility of the demands for a separate state. Two weeks before the deadline of the submission of the report, K C Rao, founder of the TRS, organized a public meeting in Warangal that was attended by 1.2 to 1.5 million people.
The tipping point came in 2011 when Telangana activists demolished 16 statues of popular Telugu icons not belonging to Telangana and threw the remnants into the Hussain Sagar lake. This development indicated a clear cultural divorce between Telangana and Seemandhra, foreshadowing an inevitable political cleaving.
The political future of Telangana is still unclear. Veteran journalist and political commentator Kalyan Arun said “In the event of Assembly Elections, the TRS and Congress will probably form a coalition to cobble together a majority.”
In addition, the Maoist threat looms over Telangana which has a long and violent history of left-wing extremism and is home to the top brass of the Maoist leadership. “Maoists have an ideological link to Telangana”, said Arun when questioned about the Maoist threat. The rebels might take advantage of the unstable political and administrative situation to recoup forces and take on the administration with renewed vigour.
Also, the announcement of Telangana might lead to deterioration in the law and order situation in Seemandhra which has witnessed angry protests over the decision.
However, the achievement of statehood is only the first step for Telangana which will need an efficient and stable government to bring about the much needed economic reforms in this under-developed region.