Equal division of AP on cards
The Congress High Command appears to be coming around the view that bifurcation of the State on geographic and demographic lines would help the party...
The Congress High Command appears to be coming around the view that bifurcation of the State on geographic and demographic lines would help the party politically in the next year's Assembly and Parliament elections Hyderabad: The stage appears to have been set for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. The vacillation on the part of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi seems to be over. The only question is whether to go for a simple demerger and create a separate state of Telangana or take the opportunity to divide AP into two equal parts, both geographically and demographically, after adding Anantapur and Kurnool, two Rayalaseema districts, to Telangana. The number of Lok Sabha seats also would be divided into two equal parts: 21 each. The decision has reportedly been taken keeping in view the interests of the Congress party. Whatever may be the ultimate decision, it would be announced and the process of its implementation initiated before the general election due in less than 10 months. The Congress High Command has realized that any more delay would harm the party on a permanent basis and that the Tamil Nadu syndrome could be repeated in AP, relegating the Congress to the third position, while the regional parties (TDP and YSRCP) would share the centre stage. Madhusudana Mistry, AICC general secretary now in charge of the party affairs in UP, who was in Hyderabad and witnessed the 'Chalo Assembly programme', noted the intensity of the Telangana sentiment which was on display in spite of the massive deployment of paramilitary forces. He went back to Delhi and reported to the AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi that if the separate statehood demand was not conceded before elections, the Congress could forget about the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana. Sonia and Rahul, until then reluctant to take a decision in favour of demerger for fear of losing seats in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, came round to the view that if no decision is taken and if the present equivocal stand is maintained, the party would lose both in Telangana and Coastal Andhra, while Rayalaseema would be swept by the YSR Congress party. The reports received by the AICC said it would be a battle between YSRCP and TDP in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, while the TRS and the BJP would be fighting it out in Telangana. Reports that there has been a general tilt towards the BJP in Telangana since the party is seen as one that would form the next government in Delhi and that it would surely grant separate statehood to Telangana as promised by the top leaders of the party have convinced the High Command that no decision would be a political suicide. The party leadership has also come to the conclusion that the Telangana sentiment is not as weak as some leaders from Coastal Andhra tried to make out and the sentiment for a united State is not as strong as they professed. The decision to take forward the 2009 December 9 statement by the then Home Minister Chidambaram was understood to have been arrived at some time back, even before the recent Cabinet expansion. That was perhaps the reason why two more ministers from Coastal Andhra were added to the six from the region already in the Union Cabinet and none was taken from Telangana in the recent exrecise. According to informed sources, it was done deliberately to prepare the ground for the imminent decision. The Union ministers would be expected to take care of any hiccups in Coastal Andhra after the announcement of the decision. Dhamavarapu Srinivas, former PCC president, is the key man who has been giving inputs to the Congress president continuously. He must have met Sonia Gandhi at least 10 times in the last two months. He is understood to have told Sonia that if Telangana state is not conceded, leaders like him may not go out of the party like Kesava Rao, Jagannadham and Vivek, but would prefer not to contest and retire from active politics. Sonia has reportedly asked a Rajya Sabha member from Coastal Andhra why the Congress should not give Telangana state when BJP is prepared to give. The honourable member, though adept at backroom politics, had no answer. Governor ESL Narasimhan is another channel for the Congress high command. He has been going to Delhi periodically to meet Sonia, Chidambaram and Home Minister Shinde. After he returned from Delhi the other day, he met D Srinivas and exchanged notes. Only after that meeting, Srinivas had talks with Prof Kodandaram and Mallepalli Laxmaiah of TJAC to know their pulse on what would be the post- announcement developments in Telangana. Both the TJAC leaders reportedly assured Srinivas that they would support the Congress if their demand was conceded without any strings attached. The TJAC leaders also met Damodaram Rajanarasimha, Dy CM, and Janareddy, Minister for Panchayati Raj, to discuss the Telangana questions. The Congress high command is also in touch with TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR). The protagonists of Telangana are reluctant to accept Anantapur and Kurnool as part of the new State. But they are not totally opposed to the proposal. They are even preparing their argument in favour of Talanganaseema, a new state comprising the present ten Telangana districts and the two Seema districts -- Anantapur and Kurnool. They can tell the people that Srisailam dam would be part of the new State and having two more districts would be a gain and not a loss. An industrial corridor between Hyderabad and Bengaluru could be developed in a big way. A package would be offered to Coastal Andhra, instead, to build a new capital. Some Coastal leaders did suggest to the Congress high command that a package could be offered first and a decision to bifurcate the State could be thought of only if it is rejected in toto. But the top leaders are convinced that packages in the past came a cropper and no useful purpose would be served by another package. The TRS, BJP and TRS, the parties which are clearly in favour of demerger, have already stated that packages are no more acceptable. The Congress leaders have noticed that the BJP is changing gears to capitalize on its clear-cut policy of favouring a separate Telangana and win as many LS seats from the region as possible. Narendra Modi is slated to visit Hyderabad on July 27 and he would be addressing a big rally. The chintan bhaitak organized by the BJP in Hyderabad on Monday decided to go all-out to make the best use of the situation. The CPI also had a brainstorming session at Yadagirigutta in Nalgonda district on Monday and resolved to aggressively campaign for Telangana. The proposal to bifurcate the State into equal parts would also help control the damage on account of the YSRCP. The community which is behind YS Jaganmohan Reddy would be divided into two states and it will not be in a position to decide the outcome of the elections. The TRS will have to merge into the Congress. KCR has been saying that if his sole demand of separate statehood is met, he is prepared to merge his party with the Congress. With the TJAC also supporting it, the Congress can beat YSRCP, TDP and the BJP in Telangana where it can bag maximum number of LS seats. It has to fight with the TDP and the YSRCP in Coastal Andhra plus two Rayalaseema districts of Chittoor and Kadapa. The Congress can limit the damage and retain most of the 33 seats it won in 2009. Otherwise, the party high command is convinced, it will be confined to a single digit. Whatever Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh (in charge of AP) may have said in Delhi on Tuesday, there are indications that something is brewing in the Congress and a decision would be out sooner than later.
8 Dec 2019 8:31 AM GMT