At the meeting convened in the Union Home Ministry last Thursday, the Andhra Pradesh chief secretary, DGP and Intelligence chief besides the irrigation and power secretaries were quizzed about the possible reaction in the state to two scenarios. One, Hyderabad remains a separate entity and two new capitals are announced for Telangana and Seemandhra. The second, if Hyderabad was retained as a common capital for a minimum period of ten years. More than a year after the Srikrishna committee gave an exhaustive report on the development, or rather the lack of it in all three regions, the secretaries were also reportedly asked questions on the backwardness of Rayalaseema.
What response the officers from Andhra Pradesh gave is not known (apart from making a case for deploying extra security forces to handle the fallout of the decision) but what it shows is that the last word has not yet been said on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Though political quarters in Delhi indicated last week that "Telangana is inevitable'', even leaders from the region are now wary of a googly being bowled by Delhi.
Whispers in the corridors of power indicate the decision on the status of Hyderabad will prove to be a stumbling block. Geographically Hyderabad belongs to Telangana but the Centre is equally concerned about the safety and well-being of the large number of people from other parts of Andhra Pradesh and the country who are settled in the city, potentially in the Telangana state.
While the formation of Telangana seems imminent will the Congress bite the bullet? PTI
In the midst of all this, K Chandrasekhar Rao has bowled a beamer by suggesting a referendum in Hyderabad. Given that all along KCR has talked of Hyderabad being built with the sweat, blood and tears of the people of Telangana, his offer has left many of his supporters bewildered. More so, since his Telangana Rashtra Samiti has never done well electorally in the city constituencies. What is the plan behind KCR making the status of Hyderabad open-ended and seeking to a referendum?
KCR obviously knows a referendum will not take place because there is no provision for it under law and it will only create further fissures in an already polarised society, that is divided on regional lines. It will create more hostility and there will be tremendous pressure on every voter. KCR knows he has nothing to lose while agreeing to a referendum in principle.
Those who are in the thick of arguing for or against Telangana also point to the trust deficit between the Congress and the TRS as another stumbling block. The Congress wants KCR to agree to a merger before the announcement on Telangana. KCR wants the announcement to come first and see how the Congress handles the fallout of the decision in Seemandhra before agreeing to merge the TRS with the Congress. Given the U-turn the Congress made on forming the separate state in December 2009, TRS leaders say KCR is once bitten, twice shy. Even Congress leaders are not sure if KCR will keep his word on merging the two parties. After all, why would KCR after doing all the hard work, let Congress eat the fruit.
Another critical factor will be YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Vayalar Ravi let the cat out of the bag during the recent Chintan Shivir in Jaipur that the Congress could look for an alliance or understanding with YSR Congress. Given that the YSRC, its wishy-washy stand notwithstanding, is more in favour of the existing structure of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress might find it difficult to bifurcate and at the same time, try to befriend Jagan before the polls.
With the decision on Telangana to be announced by 28 January, the Seemandhra leaders are giving it all they can, in the last over of the Andhra Pradesh match. It is a difficult situation for the Congress. If it plays defensively, it could lose the match in Telangana. If it decides to hit out, it is likely to be stumped in Seemandhra. The manner in which it is raining trouble for the party, its only hope would be to somehow save face through a complicated Duckworth-Lewis method.