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Not against Telangana, says Cong

New Delhi, Jan. 30: The Congress today asserted, amid confusion on the Centre’s stand on Telangana, it was not against creation of a new state and the only question was about timing as consultations were under way.

“The Congress position is very clear, it is known to all. The Union home minister has clarified the position,” Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko said in the context of the ongoing agitation.

He was referring to then home minister P. Chidambaram’s midnight statement in December 2009 that the government would initiate the process for creation of Telangana.

Since the Congress has sent out confusing signals over the years despite taking a categorical stand, Chacko was specifically asked again if his party was in favour of a Telangana state. “We are not against formation of Telangana,” he said, the decisiveness in his tone causing a flutter.

He then repeated: “Yes, I am telling you, our position is clear, we are in the process of taking a decision. Consultations with all stakeholders are going on.”

Chacko’s assertion had a positive fallout as Telangana MPs who had come to Delhi to resign changed their mind. They said there was no reason to quit as the Congress had given a categorical assurance on Telangana.

Earlier, they had intended to hand in their resignation letters to Sonia Gandhi, which has little meaning as the competent authority in this case is Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

This is not the first time the Congress has sent out a clear message, although it has remained largely non-committal over the last decade. Before the 2004 general election, the Congress had promised to carve out a new state while wooing the Telangana Rashtra Samiti for an alliance. Party chief Sonia had said at election rallies in 2004 that the Congress would respect the sentiments for Telangana.

The 2004 Congress manifesto, the UPA common minimum programme and the first presidential address to both Houses of Parliament contained positive assurances on Telangana and promises to create a consensus.

But this position got diluted as then Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was against splitting the state and was powerful enough to manage the Telangana agitation.

In the 2009 national manifesto, there was no mention of Telangana. But the Andhra manifesto categorically said the Congress was not opposed to the creation of Telangana in principle and a decision would be taken at an appropriate time after talks with all stakeholders.

The Centre kept buying time despite several spells of social and political turmoil and finally set up the Justice Srikrishna Committee that gave it several options, indicating the division of the state was not final.

The agitation has again picked up after the self-imposed deadline by home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde lapsed.