Congress’ vague Telangana stand leaves it isolated

By Mohammed Shafeeq,IANS,

Hyderabad : With the realignment of political forces in Telangana making statehood to the region a dominant issue in the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress is under pressure to bring some clarity on its stand.

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Almost all opposition parties have taken a pro-Telangana line, leaving the ruling Congress the only major party without a clear stand on the issue in the run-up to the elections next month. Its state election manifesto promised that if voted to power the party would take follow-up action on the report of a committee constituted by the government.

But the committee, comprising members from both the houses of the state legislature and headed by Finance Minister K. Rosaiah, was announced only on the last day of the last assembly session in February, raising questions about the Congress’ sincerity on the issue.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy defended his government’s stance in the face of criticism by the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has done a U-turn in favour of the demand for statehood, and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which is spearheading the movement.

“We have no objection to the formation of Telangana but want to address the issues raised by the demand. Hence we have constituted this committee,” he told reporters Tuesday evening.

The situation in the region comprising 10 districts, including Hyderabad, has undergone dramatic change since the 2004 elections.

The TRS, which fought the last elections in alliance with the Congress party, is now a key partner in the TDP-led four-party “grand” opposition alliance.

The TDP had been opposing bifurcation of the state since the party’s formation in 1982, but last year did a volte-face to back the demand for a separate Telangana. It is likely to make the promise in its election manifesto.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has also backed the demand though Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is firm on its stand against smaller states.

Actor-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) has also promised to facilitate division of the state if the people of Telangana feel it was the best option.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had reversed its pro-Telangana stand in 1999 under pressure from the TDP, has already promised that it would carve out a separate state within 100 days of coming to power.

In 2004, the Congress manifesto had promised to constitute a second States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) to look into the demand. It had also stated that it respected the report of the first SRC (1955), which had opposed merger of Telangana with the then Andhra State.

However, the region, which was part of erstwhile Hyderabad state, was merged with Andhra state in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh. The region has since witnessed many violent agitations.

Telangana sends 119 legislators to the 294-member state assembly and accounts for 18 out of 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.

TRS, which bagged 26 assembly and five Lok Sabha seats in 2004, had joined the Congress-led coalition governments both in the state and at the centre. It later pulled out accusing Congress of going back on its promise for a separate state.