Congress party buys time over new state

Reuters | Tue Dec 15, 2009 | 6:31pm IST

The government distanced itself on Tuesday from a move to carve a new state out of Andhra Pradesh and asked the leaders of the southern state to instead build a consensus as protests continued. Last week, the government in a surprise move announced it would push for the formation of a Telangana state after violent protests and a hunger strike by a leading politician shut down business in Andhra Pradesh’s high-tech Hyderabad city. But daily protests against Telangana since the announcement by its own partymen have led the Congress-ruled government to hold talks to defuse tension and buy more time on the issue. “Our stand is that a resolution to form Telangana must be introduced in the state assembly first,” said Janardhan Dwivedi, a Congress party spokesman. “The Congress is happy to support it after a consensus,” said Shakeel Ahmed, another leader.

Experts said the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh could introduce a resolution in the state assembly only in the next scheduled session in February after the present winter session was adjourned indefinitely due to protests. The chances of a resolution paving the way for the formation of Telangana may be slimmer as nearly 180 lawmakers in the 294-member Andhra Pradesh state assembly are opposing      creation of a new state. A two-thirds majority is required to pass the resolution. At least 138 lawmakers, including 80 from the Congress party, have resigned, although their resignations have not been accepted by the speaker.

“The Congress will try to pacify the angry lawmakers as the party wants to resolve the crisis as soon as possible,” said N. Bhaskara Rao of the Centre for Media Studies. Any move to force the Telangana issue could see the state heading towards a mid-term poll, which would be a body blow to the Congress party and result in Congress losing seats, political analysts say. “The mood is against the Congress and they will never want to be in such a situation where there is a mid-term poll,” Bhaskara Rao added.

The parliament was also adjourned briefly in New Delhi after lawmakers from Andhra Pradesh shouted pro and anti-Telangana slogans, while students clashed with police in the southern state. While no decision has been made on whether Hyderabad, which houses firms like Microsoft, Google and Mahindra Satyam, will move to the new Telangana state, it has made many politicians and investors jittery. L. Rajagopal, a Congress parliamentarian who is also chairman of the Lanco Group, a power and construction firm, has resigned from the party. “We don’t want a division of the state as it will weaken it a lot,” Rajagopal said on Tuesday. But Telangana leaders are still adamant.

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