Scant attention has been paid to the open rebellion against the Congress high command by the Andhra Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy on the question of a separate state of Telangana. Reddy has publicly challenged the Congress leadership to expel him, but he insists that he will defeat the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013, meant to divide the state. Above all else, it shows that the high command has lost its grip on the party. Due to a vastly reduced charisma, Congressmen no longer feel obliged to kowtow to the high command. For, it was only the ability of the Family to ensure the victory of party candidates that kept the Congress tethered to the 10 Janpath establishment. Besides, it speaks poorly of both the government and the party leadership that neither seemed to have factored in the stiff opposition of the Andhra government to the creation of Telangana. The ugly scenes witnessed on the floor of the assembly when the Bill was introduced in the two Houses of Andhra legislature on Wednesday testify to the resolve of Kiran Reddy. As required under the Constitution, the Bill to create a new state had to be necessarily referred to the state legislature. President Pranab Mukherjee sent the Bill to the Andhra Assembly for its opinion on the redrawing of the state’s boundaries last week. Ideally, the Bill ought to be debated in a calm atmosphere, with the members registering their vote for or against the bifurcation of the state at the end of the debate. But this is unlikely to happen, especially when the atmosphere is so charged and the Chief Minister himself is most vociferously leading the naysayers. So, what is the way out? That the Bill is bound to be rejected by the Assembly if it is allowed to be put to vote is a given. But, legally, even the outright rejection by the state legislature does not kill the proposal to create Telangana. For, the recommendation of the State legislature is not binding on the centre. However, that is not the question that should concern the centre. What should is whether it is the right atmosphere, right conditions, to ignite afresh the Telangana fires at a time when the centre’s own moral and political authority stands vastly diminished. Following the rout of the Congress Party in the recent Assembly polls, even those Congressmen in Andhra, who might otherwise have been hesitant to challenge the party leadership, will feel emboldened to openly rebel against the Telangana proposal. On the other hand, if the idea of Telangana was revived by the Congress high command with an eye on the next general elections, it seems from the ways things have panned out that the new state may still be in a limbo by the time the polls are notified. Even if the centre somehow manages to beat the tight timeline, it will still have to reckon with the resulting mayhem in the truncated Andhra and the retaliatory fire in the new state on the eve of the elections. Is that risk worth taking for a few Lok Sabha seats?
Frankly, the electoral motive has denuded the Telangana move of any genuine socio-economic objective the creation of a new state might have had otherwise. Since the electoral gains too seem to have become illusory due to the gross mishandling by the government and the Congress high command, wisdom lies in shelving the move for the time being. The Telangana proposal could be revived when a new and stable government is in place in New Delhi after the elections next May. Is that too much to ask to ensure that Andhra does not go up in flames yet again? The desperation of the Congress Party for a few Lok Sabha seats should not inflict avoidable pain and suffering on the people of both Andhra Pradesh and what is supposed to become Telangana. Act in hurry and regret at leisure is an old phrase which the Congress leadership needs to keep in mind when it presses ahead full throttle on the Telangana creation.