Telangana today, Gorkhaland tomorrow?
The United Progressive Alliance at the centre has set in motion the process of carving out a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh, a move that is likely to give impetus to other statehood demands.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram’s statement on Wednesday about initiating the process of forming the new state was prompted by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) party chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao’s resolve to fast unto death and violent protests in state capital Hyderabad, home to 1000 IT companies.
As jubilant TRS supporters danced on the streets of Hyderabad and shouted slogans, the Congress-led ruling alliance’s capitulation raises several questions about the likely impact of such a momentous decision.
Since its inception, demands for a separate Telangana state, formed out of 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh, has seen violent protests and political power play, with more than 300 people killed between 1969 and 1972.
Supporters of Telangana, a backward region, have traditionally accused the state government of discrimination.
Successive governments of both Congress and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have used the issue as a poll plank and promised to expedite of the statehood demands.
The Congress’ electoral alliance with TRS in the state in 2004 was based on promises of delivering Telangana to its leaders and was included in its Common Minimum Programme.
However, Telangana supporters accused the Congress of backtracking following its two electoral wins in 2004 and May this year.
Political analysts predict that the Telangana victory will spark renewed statehood demands for several other regions which have been simmering for a while.
Though the Congress is expected to bring in a Telangana bill in the budget session of Parliament in 2010, it has not set an actual timeframe on how it is to go about the contentious issue.
In its plate is also the issue of Hyderabad, claimed by Telangana supporters, but which most ministers from the state have demanded stay with Andhra Pradesh or be turned into a union territory.
How the Congress goes about fixing a definite timeframe towards resolving the issue while balancing similar demands from other factions remains to be seen.