Telangana questions

The UPA's approach to Telangana so far has been to ally with the cause when politically convenient and turning away at the last moment a policy that has fanned the identity politics in Andhra Pradesh into the unmanageable thing it now is.

The Congress has blown opportunities to lend coherence to the issue right from the beginning. It thoughtlessly intervened in 2009, giving in to a hunger strike by a then-electorally discredited Telangana Rashtra Samithi leadership. It sat on the matter for another couple of years, setting up the Srikrishna Committee to ponder over the matter from all sides. In the months since, the slow-burning antagonisms in the region have become uncontrollable, with Rayalaseema also seeking its own separate destiny, and Telangana legislators across parties defiantly banding together. Now, their troubles in the assembly have been compounded with Congress MPs from the state also starting a hunger strike. The Telangana Joint Action Committee, which includes teachers, lawyers, health workers, government employees and activists have held up the state for nearly a month now. They have planned "rail roko" campaigns, forcing trains to crawl around their agenda. Interestingly, the Srikrishna Committee recommended keeping Andhra Pradesh united, but redressing Telangana's social and economic grievances.

Now, even if Telangana wrests statehood for itself, it will be a victory for this agitation, and a troubling precedent for other claims. There is certainly a rationale for breaking up large and administratively cumbersome states into smaller units, there has been a clear logic in previous partitions, when a significant region felt distant and estranged from the state's capital. In some states, when certain areas are culturally distinct, or have a resource imbalance, and end up in a hostile relationship because they are forced to share the same boundaries and benefits, there is some wisdom to parting over these differences. The problem is that in the political discourse, the Telangana question is not analysed along neutral, objective criteria. The Congress, as the party that has by far the largest number of MLAs and MPs from the state, bears the responsibility of negotiating these questions politically.

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