The Congress seems to have thrown its weight behind the demand for a separate state of Telengana with party spokesperson PC Chacko today stating that “it was only a matter of time before the announcement is made.” Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Chacko said, “The Congress party is not against the formation of Telengana.”
This assumes significance, as the party of late has been under attack, for “betraying the people of Telengana and not taking a clear decision on the issue.” The Congress spokesperson in unambiguous terms added, “We (Congress party) are not going back on our promise.” It might be recalled that the then Home Minister P Chidambaram had way back in 2009 announced the setting up of Telengana.
The party’s failure to abide by the January 28, 2013 deadline has revived widespread agitations in Hyderabad with several Congress MPs from the region threatening to resign.
While both the AICC incharge of the state Ghulam Nabi Azad and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde have refrained from making any statement on the issue, Chacko’s statement is the closest that the Congress has got to making its stand clear on the demand for a separate state.
What appears to be taking time is “fulfilling some constitutional obligations." The state Assembly needs to first pass a resolution in the matter, the status of capital Hyderabad is also a contentious issue which needs to be sorted out and the other regions Rayalseema and Seemandhra would also need to placated.
“These issues need to be sorted out. The talks are a serious stage, there is a multi-layered discussion going on,” said a senior Congress leader.
In order to get the resolution passed in the Andhra Assembly the Congress would need to get all political parties on board as the majority of MLAs being from the Seemandhra regions.
The electoral fallout of the decision for the Congress party also needs to be factored in. It cannot be ignored that Andhra Pradesh sends the largest number of MPs (31) for the Congress to the Lok Sabha. Therefore the party is keen to buy more time as it wants to avoid any trouble before the crucial Budget session of Parliament.
In the wake of a decision to form a separate state, the Congress is likely to bag the support of all the 17 MPs from Telengana while at the same time lose out on the support of many more MPs from the Seemandhra region. Sources indicate that the Congress leadership has realized that in any case, Jagan Mohan Reddy and his YSR Congress, which hold sway over the non Telengana areas is likely to sway votes in the Seemandhra region away from the Congress.
The Congress appears to have given into the pressure from the pro -Telengana lobby with its 17 MPs and 117 MLA seats. They have been bolstered by the support of the Telegu Desam Party and the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti TRS, which has already announced that it will merge with the Congress should it agree to Telengana.
The Congress President Sonia Gandhi has held a series of core group meetings and as one senior Congress leader informs “consultations are going on at a war footing” and it appears as per the indications by the party only a matter of time before a formal announcement clears the air on this contentious issue.