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Telangana: 29th state in the making

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After dithering for nearly four years, the ruling Congress and the UPA have accepted one of the oldest demands in independent India for a separate state and asked the government to split Andhra Pradesh. The new proposed State - that culminates a bloody agitation that cost hundreds of lives - will have 10 districts including the city of Hyderabad. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will, however, have to share Hyderabad as a joint capital for 10 years. The decision by the government is definitely a political masterstroke to check-mate its opponents ahead of the 2014 general elections. The Congress followed a well decided script on the Telangana issue. The UPA coordination committee first unanimously endorsed the move to divide Andhra Pradesh and the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision making body of the party, followed it up by unanimously passing a resolution, requesting the central government to "take steps in accordance with the Constitution of India to form a separate state of Telangana".

The final decision on a new state lies with the Indian parliament. The state assembly must also pass a resolution approving the creation of what will be India's 29th state. Retention of Hyderabad as capital for next 10 years is a very good balancing act by the Congress - as it recognizes Telangana's claim on the city but seeks to soften the blow to the opponents who were also concerned about the investments of coastal Andhra businesses in the capital. The Centre will help Andhra Pradesh build a new capital. There are indications that a mechanism will be created to vest the governor with oversight of law and order in the city: an arrangement that falls short of turning the city into a Union Territory but reassures those worried about a sudden change in its character. The ruling Congress is expected to act expeditiously in order to reap the goodwill in the Telangana region. There are indications that the Union Cabinet will soon request the President to ask the Andhra Pradesh legislature to adopt a resolution spelling out where it stands on the issue of bifurcation. The resolution of the state assembly will not be binding. Under the Constitution, the power to create new states and alter the boundaries of existing ones rests solely with Parliament. With the Congress firm on the creation of Telangana, the fate of the resolution may have little bearing on the outcome.

Immediate reaction: Three ministers and more than 50 legislators from Rayalaseema and Andhra regions of Andhra Pradesh have submitted their resignations to protest the Congress' decision to carve out Telangana state. Four central ministers MM Pallam Raju, JD Seelam, D Purandeswari and K Kruparani from Congress are likely to resign to protest the party's decision to grant statehood to Telangana. With a three-day, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung said if the Centre announced a Telengana state then it should also declare one for Gorkhaland. He said that the demand for Gorkhaland is older than the demand for Telengana. The demand for a separate Gorkhaland state has been there since 1907. The Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) was the first political party from the region which had demanded a separate state for the identity of the Gorkha ethnic people and also financial freedom for the group. In November 2011, the UP assembly had passed a resolution for creation of Bundelkhand but the MP government rejected the demand outright. The earliest demands for a separate Bundelkhand can be traced back to an agreement with the government of India and 35 erstwhile ruling states of Bundelkhand in 1949.

In the north, a Congress MP batted for the formation of Poorvanchal to be carved out of eastern UP. Dividing Andhra Pradesh - A blow to political power of Andhra Pradesh: With a population of over 3.5 crore, the new state comprising mostly the areas of the princely Nizam state will have 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 Assembly seats. For the parent state i.e. Andhra Pradesh, its division will reduce its political influence on the national politics. It should here be noted that, with 42 seats in Lok Sabha, Andhra Pradesh along with West Bengal accounts for the third biggest kitty of LS seats after UP (80) and Maharashtra (48). After its division, 17 Lok Sabha seats will go to Telangana, leaving Andhra Pradesh with just 25 seats. The number of seats in what remains of AP can slip to 21 if the Congress leadership decides to club the districts of Anantapur and Kurnool with the proposed Telangana region. As violence continues to rock parts of Assam in support of demands for sep- arate states, chief minister Tarun Go- goi has ruled out further division of his state. Demanding separate state of Karbi Anglong and Bodoland, several organisations have stepped up their agitation leading to bandh, arson, removal of train tracks besides blocking of highways and railway tracks connecting the north-eastern region. The creation of Telangana reflects the end of a long journey for those who have campaigned for statehood and the beginning of a fresh set of wrangles over the shaping of the new state. The movement for Telangana has rolled on for decades with peaks and troughs of popular mobilisation. Electoral alliances have been made and broken in the name of statehood. The splitting of Andhra Pradesh marks the first time in India's post-Independence history that a "linguistic state" - a state created for speakers of a regional language, in this case Telugu - has been divided. Indeed it was in the Andhra region that the strongest campaign for the reorganisation of state boundaries around linguistic communities rather than administrative histories - took place in the early 1950s. The Telugu- speaking districts of Telangana were then added to the eventual state of Andhra Pradesh. And in the coming years, further linguistic states were created in south and west India. The approval of Telangana as a state clearly shows that regionalisation of politics has reached its peak in the country. The more contemporary resurrection of the statehood demand has also challenged patterns of social and political dominance that have crystallised in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the context of economic liberalisation. The country should be ready for debates about the merits of creating more states in other regions, as well as to bequeath administrative challenges for the inheritors of statehood in both parts of the reorganized state of Andhra Pradesh.