Andhra falls apart
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Having impulsively agreed to Telangana, the Centre is now responsible for a fair partition
At long last, the UPA is moving to operationalise the Telangana decision that it had taken long ago. After it thoughtlessly intervened in 2009, in a conflict that has existed as long as Andhra Pradesh has, the Centre had stalled, intensifying resentments on both sides of the state. Now the cabinet has clarified the outlines of the division and entrusted a group of ministers to fill in the details. The Hyderabad contention has been settled, but there are valid worries about the transition, and there will be frictions over the sharing of revenue, water, state infrastructure and more. These specifics are crucial, as is an uncompromising focus on law and order in the coming weeks.
There are strong mobilisations on either side, and four Union ministers have already quit, an indication of the political turbulence ahead. The cabinet's decision contradicted the convention where the assembly passes a resolution to divide the state. While the Centre can technically override the assembly's decision, the fact remains that Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand had broken away only after the decision was endorsed by the Vidhan Sabhas of their parent states, at the end of a long process of struggle and accommodation. Lalu Prasad once announced that Jharkhand would be formed only over his dead body, a position that time and events mellowed. The Telangana decision, though, was a rash response to a hunger strike by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi leadership. After that, the Centre bought time and weighed the political repercussions instead of setting up new principles of state reorganisation. There could be many reasons why states should be broken up — administrative ease, the need to respond to regions that are economically deprived, politically ignored or culturally denied. But by not providing even a semblance of neutral justification for Telangana, the Centre has suggested that mere strength of sentiment, or blackmail, is enough for a new state. How, then, will it respond to other movements of equal fervour and tenacity?