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TALE SPIN

None can deny that this is an opportune time to rev up the demand for Telengana. The withdrawal of the Trinamul Congress from the United Progressive Alliance has left the coalition government at the Centre vulnerable. This is being used to maximum advantage by the parties that now prop up the UPA as well as the parties opposing it. Andhra Pradesh contributes significantly to the UPA’s strength in Parliament. Hence, any instability in this crucial state is bound to reflect on the stability of the Central government. If this simple calculation has provided one of the stimuli to the recent march in Hyderabad, the other has been the consistent failure of the Congress, the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh and the Centre, to deal with the challenge that the Telengana struggle has posed. It has depended entirely on stop-gap political arrangements to take care of a difficult situation. This strategy, devised by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, continues today. There is no doubt that it has given the party short-term dividends, which it has capitalized on to retain political dominance in the state, be it through the co-option of pro-Telangana leaders such as Marri Channa Reddy or K. Chandrasekhar Rao. However, in the long run, it has proved to be disastrous for the party, which is facing a schism, given the contrary pulls of the loyalties of leaders hailing from Telengana and those from either coastal Andhra or Rayalseema. The state party unit, already divided over its loyalty to Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and his son, may once again try to tide over the situation by buying peace with its opponents — the powerful Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy or leaders of the pro-Telengana parties. But this cannot be the end of the story.

There is every reason to give Telengana more than cursory attention, and not merely because it poses a political problem for the Congress. A resolution of the Telengana issue will have a significant bearing on the longstanding demands of statehood for Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Harit Pradesh and sundry others. The Congress could have backed the Srikrishna Commission’s advice against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and hurried the implementation of its recommendations on decentralization and development. But, in its zeal to safeguard its political interests, it has left the door ajar for more horse-trading in the name of identity politics.