New Delhi: Brushing aside opposition after dithering for nearly four years, the Congress and the UPA coalition on Tuesday unanimously endorsed creation of a separate Telangana state from out of Andhra Pradesh. Making the official announcement, party leader Ajay Maken said that Hyderabad will be the common capital of both states for a period of 10 years.
"It is resolved to request the Central government to make steps in accordance with the Constitution to form a separate state of Telangana ......within a definite timeframe," said a resolution of the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy-making body of the party, after over an hour-long meeting.
Amidst high expectations, the UPA partners met at 7 Race Course Road, the residence of the Prime Minister, and endorsed the decision on Telangana unanimously. The Congress Working Committee, which met later, also gave its nod to the Telangana proposal and passed a resolution for creation of the new state.
The Congress also decided to recommend to the government that Hyderabad be made the joint capital of the newly-proposed state and the other regions - Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra - for a period of 10 years.
Replying to a volley of questions on sharing of resources between the two states, AICC General Secretary Digvijaya Singh said the Group of Ministers to be st up on the subject will go into sharing of land, water, revenue and assests and liabilities between Andhra and Telangana.
While maintaining that it was a 'difficult' decision, Singh rejected suggestions that the decision was aimed at reaping electoral beneifts saying "political expediency cannot be a reason for such a far reaching decision."
Explaining the reason for the decision, the Congress general secretary said it had a historical background and states are not formed merely on the basis of agitations. He rejected suggestions that the decision to carve out Telangana was based on political compulsions.
"It is a long standing demand...it has nothing to do with elections," he said. He said the Centre will urge the Andhra Pradesh assembly to adopt a resolution on creation of Telangana. The Assembly will have to accept or reject the resolution, Singh said adding, however, that either way it will not be binding on the government of India.
Referring to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Singh said its chief K. Chandrashekar Rao had maintained that it will merge with Congress once Telangana is created. "We shall await reaction of TRS...we will be favourably inclined to discuss the issue," he said.
To questions about opposition within the Congress to Telangana, Digvijay Singh asserted, "Congress party stands solidly behind the decision taken at the AICC."
Giving an overview about the procedures for formation of the new state, he said legal mechanisms would be worked out so that both states can function effectively. He said the name of the new state will be Telangana and the new capital for Andhra will be identified from Seemandhra region.
The Centre will assist both the states in maintaining safety and identify specific needs of backward regions, he said. Asked whether two districts of Rayalaseema region will be included in the new state, the Congress General Secretary said as of now the decision is for including 10 districts. As and when demands are put up for any other region, those will be considered by the GoM. He also rejected suggestions that the decision was linked to upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Seeking to paint the BJP as anti-Telangana, Digvijaya Singh said the demand for creation of the separate state had been rejected by former NDA government in 2002 when L.K. Advani was the Home Minister. He said the former Congress Chief Minister late Y.S.R. Reddy, who as Leader of Opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, had then sent a petition to President seeking Telangana.
The momentous decisions by the CWC and the UPA came after hectic consultations for the last over a week on creation of the 29th state of the country that will have a geographical area of 10 of the 23 districts of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Tuesday's decision also brings to fruition the announcement made by the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram on December 9, 2009 for creation of Telangana.
Contrary to speculation that the new state could be named Rayala Telangana, including a couple of districts of Rayalaseema, the districts that will be part of the new state will be Adilabad, Karimnagar, Khammam, Mahaboobnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Rangareddy and Warangal besides Hyderabad.
At the moment the idea is to have 10 districts in Telangana but it will be for the Group of Ministers to consider demands for inclusion of more areas, Digvijaya Singh, incharge of Andhra Pradesh affairs in Congress, told a press conference after the CWC meeting.
Out of 42 Lok Sabha seats and 294 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradehs, Telangana is likely to have 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 Assembly seats.
At the CWC meeting, the Prime Minister said the decision to create a separate Telanganawould help entire Andhra region.
Gandhi, who is also the UPA chairperson, gave a historical perspective on the issue to the CWC meeting in which Digvijaya Singh moved the resolution. It was adopted unanimously.
Like last week end, when indications emerged that the Congress was veering towards formation of Telangana, ministers and MPs belonging to the non-Telangana regions made last ditch efforts to convince Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to have a rethink on the issue.
Andhra state, the first entity formed on linguistic basis, was created in 1953 from out of the erstwhile Madras Presidency with Kurnool as the capital. With the passing of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, there was a merger of Hyderabad state and Andhra state to be called Andhra Pradesh from November 1, 1956. Andhra Pradesh now has a population of over 8.5 crore.
The 2009 announcement, taken at the height of an indefinite fast by TRS leader K Chandrashekhar Rao, had ignited street protests in the non-Telangana regions and opposition from ministers, MLAs and leaders from within the party that forced the central government and the Congress leadreship to put the issue on hold.
The Centre held rounds of meetings with all parties from the state and set up a Commission under the chairmanship for Supreme Court Judge Justice Srikrishna, which had given a report suggesting various solutions.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who was opposed to the division of Andhra Pradesh and was said to be thinking in terms of resigning, was called for consultations. He attended the UPA meeting.
However, he dismissed reports of resignation as "rumours". Similarly, Congress ministers in the Union government and the MPs gave enough indications that they would follow the party line.
Next: Highlights from the press meet addressed by Digvijaya Singh and Ajay Maken