'Shot-gun wedding and the ill-gotten dowry'
By Sam Rajappa
If the BJP government of Vajpayee could carve out three new States out of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh without shedding any blood, there is no reason why the Congress-led UPA government could not bring about separation of Telangana, forcibly merged with Seemandhra to become Andhra Pradesh 57 years ago by the government of Nehru with the promise of divorce if the union did not gel.
Two unequal States were yoked together. It never gelled as Telangana was educationally and socially backward and Andhra, including Rayalaseema, was forward. Seemandhra comprising the Andhra and Rayalaseema districts treated Telangana as a colony and the people of Telangana have been agitating for separation ever since 1969.
More than 900 people have lost their life in the prolonged struggle. Granting statehood to Telangana does not involve any bifurcation of territory or division of assets and liabilities. It is a mere restoration of status quo ante, 1956.
The people of Andhra Pradesh gave the UPA a mandate for Telangana statehood by giving more than three-fourths of the Lok Sabha seats in the State in 2004 and in 2009. Telangana statehood was on the UPA election manifesto.
The government took the first step to redeem its election pledge in December 2009 when Home Minister P Chidambaram made an announcement to that effect in the Lok Sabha. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy was unequivocal that as long as he was in charge, he would never allow separation of the two States and he was even prepared to step down.
It was New Delhi’s insistence that Kiran Kumar preside over the dissolution of Andhra Pradesh that led to the murky aftermath of the government’s decision.
The Telugu Desam, main Opposition party in Andhra Pradesh, passed a resolution in 2008 that granting statehood for Telangana was “a historical necessity.” Even the breakaway YSR Congress of Jaganmohan Reddy had endorsed his parent party’s decision to split Andhra Pradesh. Their present posture is only to project their respective parties’ electoral prospects in Seemandhra.
Other political parties, including the BJP, are only bit players in Andhra Pradesh politics. Even among them, barring the CPI(M), there was consensus on Telangana statehood.
Ever since the composite Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956, the fulcrum of power shifted to Seemandhra side. Chief Ministers like Marri Chenna Reddy or PV Narasimha Rao from the Telangana region who could have helped maintain the balance of power were removed unceremoniously by the Congress high command and never allowed to complete their term in office. The result was the widening of the gulf between the two regions of Andhra Pradesh.
Almost all Congress MPs who had offered to resign after the Union government set in motion the formation of Telangana State have huge business interest in the region. Seemandhra Cogress MP Subbirami Reddy’s Gayatri Group, nominally run by his wife Indira Reddy, had secured three projects worth Rs. 2,413 crore in Telangana.
Another Congress MP K Rajagopal Reddy’s Sushee Group with his wife Laxmi Reddy at the helm was allotted projects worth Rs. 2,618 crore in Telangana. Similarly, Congress MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao’s Transtroy India had bagged irrigation projects worth Rs. 1,364 crore in Telangana.
The Ramky Group, in which the TDP MP Modugula Venugopala Reddy is a director, has contracts worth Rs. 2,800 crore in the Telangana region. Congress MP Kavuru Sambasiva Rao, Union textile minister, is in partnership with Modugula in the latter’s Progressive Constructions company.
Seemandhra politicians like these with vested interests are propelling the agitation against Telangana becoming a separate State for they do not want to lose out on lucurative Telangana contracts. To understand that Seemandhra has been treating Telangana as a colony to be exploited, two examples will suffice.
The Nagarjuna sagar project on the Krishna was conceived in such a way that its vast water spread swallowed poor farmers’ lands in Nalgonda district of Telangana to provide irrigation to farmers in Guntur and Krishna districts of Seemandhra. Although two of Indian Peninsula’s largest rivers, the Krishna and the Godavari, flow through Telangana, all major irrigation schemes benefit Seemandhra only.
Kiran Kumar Reddy takes credit for providing more than 50 million tube wells with free electricity costing about Rs. 3,200 crore a year to Telangana farmers. But the power stations providing free electricity are all located in Seemandhra.
Nature has gifted Telangana with enormous resources but they remain unexploited and the people poor, because of the neglect of the region by successive governments of the composite State.
Five of its nine districts have extensive coal reserves. Adilabad and Karimnagar have, besides coal, clays, limestone, iron ore, manganese and mica. Kammam, seat of the once famous Singareni collieries, is rich in mica, copper, chromium, graphite, barites, marble and garnet.
Ranga Reddy is famous for its quartz and granite. India’s largest uranium deposit is found in Mahabubnagar. The few successful industries in Telangana like Allwyn Metal Works, Sirsilk, coach building companies and Nizam Sugar Factory, largest in South-East Asia at the time of its establishment, were allowed to go to seed.
When Indira Gandhi got elected to the Lok Sabha from Medak, there was a flurry of activities in the district. Industrialists from all over India were vying with each other to set up units there. The State government brought out a booklet titled “Medak on the March,” setting out the road map to make the backward district compete with Singapore. Today, Medak is the biggest graveyard of abandoned projects. All that remains of Telangana’s past glory are the ornate State Assembly building and Legislative Council Hall, surrounded by beautiful gardens in its capital city of Hyderabad.
Kiran Kumar Reddy has assured his Seemandhra supporters that when the time comes for a resolution in the Assembly for the demerger of the two States, he would ensure its defeat and thwart the split of the State. The Hyderabad (as Telangana was then called) Assembly was not allowed to vote on the resolution about merger with the erstwhile Andhra State in 1956.
The States Reorganisation Commission said in its final report: “While opinion in Andhra is overwhelmingly in favour of larger state, public opinion in Telangana has still to crystalise itself…Unification of Telangana with Andhra, though desirable, should be based only on a voluntary and willing association of the people of Telangana and that it is primarily for the people of Telangana to take a decision about their future.”
The Congress high command deputed a committee led by SK Patil, then president of Bombay PCC, to assess the situation on the ground. Its report said categorically: “The people of Telangana were not willing for a merger with Andhra.”
Article 3 of the Constitution states that for two or more states to merge, a Bill should be introduced in Parliament and the President shall refer to the Legislatures of the uniting states for expressing its views thereon. The Andhra Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on 25 November, 1955, favouring merger.
The resolution included an unsolicited assurance saying: “The Assembly would assure the people of Telangana that development of that area would deemed to be a special charge and that certain priorities and special protections will be given for the improvement of the area such as irrigational developments.”
Hindsight reveals Seemandhra had its eyes on resource-rich Telangana for exploitation. Knowing the views of the Telangana people in advance, New Delhi played a dirty trick on them.
Their Chief Minister B Ramakrishna Rao was packed off to Thiruvananthapuram as Governor of Kerala and the Assembly was dissolved without giving it an opportunity to adopt a resolution for or against the merger. The subsequent merger was a typical case of shot-gun wedding. Not surprisingly, Seemandhra does not want to part with its ill-gotten dowry.
Sam Rajappa is Consulting Editor of The Weekend Leader