Amid the continuing political turmoil in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema that followed the Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution of July 30 requesting the Centre to form a separate State of Telangana, the Union Cabinet on Thursday evening gave its seal of approval to a Home Ministry proposal to divide Andhra Pradesh.
A string of resignations from the Union Council of Ministers followed, with Human Resource Development Minister M. Pallam Raju, Textiles Minister Kavuri Samba Siva Rao, Minister of State for Tourism Chiranjeevi, and Minister of State for Railways Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy putting in their papers.
If the day here began with anti-Telangana supporters shouting slogans outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence, with members of the United Andhra Pradesh Students Association trying to break the barricade, forcing the police to use mild force to disperse the protesters, it ended with the Cabinet meeting at which two of the four ministers — who have since resigned — vociferously opposing the decision to create Telangana.
Two Union ministers from Seemandhra region: textiles minister KS Rao and HRD minister Pallam Raju, vociferously opposed the move in a marathon meeting of the Cabinet. Although they did not walk out of the meeting when the PM said the decision on Telangana was final, the leadership was wary that they might scale up their protests and could even resign. In fact, Raju did meet the PM and offered to quit but decided to hold on after Singh advised him “not to act in haste”.
Congress bets on Telangana to divide and rule:
By bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, Congress is hoping for a polarization on the statehood issue that could give it electoral gains in the region, which has 17 Lok Sabha seats.
For a party in the doldrums since the death of its mascot YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Congress has sought to unfurl the emotive statehood issue to trump the mundane concerns over governance — caught as it has been in a four-year paralysis between Jaganmohan Reddy’s rebellion and an agitated Telangana.
The party, reconciled to losing Coastal-Rayalaseema region, hopes that statehood will rescue it in Telangana and give it a chunk of the state’s 42 seats that made the two UPA regimes possible.
Damodar Rajanarsimha, deputy chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, told TOI, “Telangana will stand by Congress. We will sweep the elections in the new state.”
It marks a calculated gamble on the part of Congress though. As the opposition of ministers K S Rao and Pallam Raju at the Cabinet meeting shows, Congress is staring at a wipeout in 25 seats of Seemandhra. In Telangana too, it will have to strike a deal with an ambitious TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao to avoid losses.
Congress has also embarked on the T course with some long-term objectives. A key concern is the attempt to repair the credibility of the Congress chief on whose name the Centre announced statehood in December 2009 before dashing the hopes of millions by revoking the decision.
Also, the gratitude for Congress in Telangana will check the growth of the marginal BJP. In anti-T Seemandhra, a BJP tie-up with TDP of Chandrababu Naidu may hurt the latter because of the saffron outfit’s pro-statehood stance.
An optimistic Congress is looking at a “best-case scenario” in its crumbling fort. While the party aims to win the assembly polls in Telangana, it hopes the rebel outfit YSR Congress will be the principal force in Seemandhra but, in a three-way division of votes, will require Congress support to fulfill Jaganmohan’s CM aspirations.
If that happens, Congress may end up ruling both the states created out of Andhra Pradesh.
Telugu film industry to suffer most with division:
The Rs 1,000 crore Telugu film industry is set to suffer the most with the division of the Andhra Pradesh. Tollywood which produces the second most number of films India, up to even 250 films every year, will be most effected because of the division as practically the entire industry is concentrated in Hyderabad.
As it is for the last couple of months, since the samaikyandhra agitation began, Tollywood suffered losses up to Rs 100 crore. Now with Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s announcement that the cabinet has cleared the proposal to form a separate Telagana state, the Telugu film industry is shocked.
The Telugu film industry, however, does not want to lose hope and expects the state to remain united. In Hyderabad thousands of film workers who come mainly from the Andhra region have settled over the years and work in different crafts. Practically all producers and actors hail from the Andhra region.