I was an instrument of destiny: Jairam Ramesh on the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation

Congress politician and party’s homegrown political manager with an impressive academic track record with a Mechanical Engineering degree from IIT-Bombay, MS from Carnegie Mellon University and a doctoral program in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jairam Ramesh, the chief architect of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014 has sought to explain to people that he has “discharged a task that’s entrusted to him.”

In his book titled, Old History – New Geography – Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh discussed the background of separation of Andhra from Tamil Nadu, creation of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana sentiment, and the political and administrative exercise that led to the carving out of the 29th State of India.

He, however, is aware that people, especially from Andhra region, are sore with his role in carving out a separate Telangana. He believes that had Chandrababu Naidu inducted K Chandrasekhara Rao into his Cabinet, the latter wouldn’t have launched the agitation. He asserts that the untimely death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy was a turning point in the history of Andhra Pradesh and creation of separate Telangana.

Here are a few excerpts from Firstpost's exclusive interview with Jairam Ramesh

ArtworkHow is the Congress viewing the creation of Telangana (or bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh), after two years of its formation, as a historic necessity or a historic blunder?

The Congress has certainly ended up paying a huge political price, but the bifurcation had become somewhat inevitable with all political parties barring the CPM clamouring for it. The demand for Telangana has a history of over half a century.

While doing the draft of the Reorganisation Bill and also while participating in the process of bifurcating the State, were you personally gripped by a sense of guilt? Is it because of that you sounded somewhat apologetic in the book?

Not really. I was given a job to do and I tried to execute my responsibility with full fairness, honesty and transparency. I did not volunteer or lobby for the assignment which proved to be a completely thankless task. I ended up as I say in the book by giving balanced dissatisfaction. I am not apologetic of what I did. I did what had to be done and what I was asked to do. I was but an instrument of destiny you can say.

Why haven’t the UPA or the Congress constituted a second States Reorganisation Commission (SRC), but instead have chosen a short-cut to create a separate Telangana?

I wish an SRC had been created. It can still get created. Uttar Pradesh has to be broken up into four new states. A strong case can be made for Vidarbha as well. Though hypothetical, could the Congress have gone ahead with the bifurcation, had YS Rajasekhara Reddy been alive and continuing as the Chief Minister? You, in fact, mentioned in the book that YSR’s death was the event that finally made Telangana possible. Why did you think so?

YSR’s untimely and tragic death was certainly a turning point. He did make a commitment on Telangana in the AP Assembly on February 12, 2009. But his death gave KCR new life. I talk about this in the book.

Why do you think N Chandrababu Naidu, who has been a staunch votary of a united Andhra Pradesh, suddenly changed his stand on Telangana issue? How many letters has the TDP given to the various committees? Has the Congress given any letter of either consent or dissent at all?

Yes, from 2008 onwards, the TDP supported Telangana. In fact, I reproduce two letters of Chandrababu Naidu asking for the formation of Telangana. I don’t know why he changed his stand. All I can say is that had he made KCR a Cabinet Minister, perhaps KCR would not have become a dissident and used the Telangana issue to give himself political relevance.

Do you think the Congress has been able to judiciously divide the State? Why hasn’t the Special Category Status (SCS) been enshrined in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, but why has Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the Rajya Sabha of SCS?

The special category status is a decision of the Union Cabinet endorsed by the National Development Council (NDC). This is what Vajpayee did with Uttarakhand which was created by law in 2000 but got special category status only in 2002 by a decision of the Union Cabinet. We followed this very route. Dr. Manmohan Singh said special category status for five years and Venkaiah Naidu said in the Rajya Sabha—“why only five years, we will make it for 10 years when the BJP comes to power.” The BJP has been in power for two years and what has Venkaiah Naidu’s government done?

Did you, through your book, attempt to shift the part responsibility or blame on to the BJP? Can you please divide the responsibility ratio among the Congress, the BJP, the TRS, and the TDP?

Certainly not. My book is not to score political points. It is a work of scholarship with primary sources of information and documentation. It is an eye-witness narrative. There is also some analysis and reflection but definitely no blame game whatsoever. I have been factual and very often critical of ourselves including myself.

Though you dealt with the recommendations of Justice Srikrishna Committee, hasn’t the Congress taken a decision that it had “mistakenly” perceived to be advantageous to itself? Did you foresee the party’s rout in both States?

The party’s rout in both states was completely unexpected. It was not foreseen. We knew we had a huge challenge in Andhra Pradesh but we expected to do much, much better in Telangana. Even in AP, we never ever imagined that we would end up with 2% of the popular vote.

Don’t you think incorporation of certain clauses like Section 8 and leaving the institutions under Schedule 9 and 10 of the Constitution without dividing and confusing way of dividing the river waters and even employees – without going into the details – have all caused a rift between the two States now?

No. the law is very detailed in this regard. If the political leadership in both states goes by the letter and spirit of the law, then there will not be much problem. Unfortunately, both states are now ruled by regional parties who thrive on political confrontation. The need is for continuous political dialogue and discussion and compromise on both sides. I think the law and its provisions are very detailed and provide a framework for the harmonious development of both states.

Has KCR ditched the Congress by not merging his party into the Congress in Telangana? Does Congress regret distancing YS Jagan in AP?

I have no idea. You have to ask the political managers that question. I can only answer questions relating to the bifurcation process and that too events that took place between October 8th, 2013 and February 20th, 2014.

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Updated Date: Jun 13, 2016 12:09:15 IST

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