It was a hunger strike that had led to the announcement of the separate state of Telangana in 2009. So it should not be surprising that two politicians of the state are using the same weapon to craft their own success stories by forcing the Centre into a reverse mode. Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress is fasting in Andhra Pradesh, and N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, unwilling to share the limelight with a political rival, has shifted his fast to the national capital. Their joint effort has turned the simmering agitation against the state’s bifurcation in Seemandhra into a conflagration. Rail and road transport have been hit, and power and water supply disrupted in 13 districts by the agitators or striking government employees. The trouble could take an uglier turn once the hurt over the bifurcation merges with the rage against the breakdown of civic management. Unfortunately, the man who is responsible for running the administration — the chief minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy — has virtually declared his partisanship by strongly objecting to his party’s decision to divide the state. The party, which is already sitting on the resignation of four Central ministers from the state over the issue, runs the risk of making matters worse by dismissing Mr Reddy. If it does not, it will have to face the ignominy of having its writ overturned by a party-man.
It goes without saying that the decision of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh and make the most of it politically in the 2014 elections has backfired badly. The party has been able to secure neither its political future in the state with this move nor the future of the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In fact, it may well have sown permanent seeds of discord between the two, given the lack of clarity about the future of Hyderabad or the way revenue, water and other assets are likely to be divided. The brazenness with which political considerations have been given priority over the responsibility to evolve a sounder principle for the reorganization of states has encouraged other fortune-hunters to enter the fray. The complete chaos reigning in Andhra Pradesh is the result of this. Already, other states battling claims of separate statehood from linguistically or culturally distinct groups have tasted this chaos, as in Bengal and Assam. Telangana’s birth, in the shadow of the game of political one-upmanship, is bound to make the situation worse.
The logic of reorganizing states should be placed firmly beyond the ambit of political play if the Indian federation is to remain a whole. Fragmentation should facilitate administration (as it did in Uttar Pradesh), not the ambition of political opportunists who will find a thousand ways to exploit differences and disaffection.