Friday, June 27, 2014

The birth of two states

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
Two new States have born on June 2nd. Technically, one might argue that only one new State is being formed – Telangana. However, Telangana gets the existing capital city of Hyderabad. Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh has to rebuild everything from scratch – including its capital city (which is not yet decided). Hence the argument that two new States will be born tomorrow. One is Telangana – citizens of the State are in an elated mood for achieving their long standing demand of a separate Statehood. The other is Andhra Pradesh – citizens of the State are in a pensive mood because they now have to focus on rebuilding the State.
The latest struggle for splitting Andhra Pradesh into two States can be dated back to year 2001 – when KCR (who was miffed that Chandrababu Naidu didn’t give him a Ministerial post) formed the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). His journey only saw lows till the end of 2009, when his umpteenth fast-unto-death grabbed Sonia Gandhi’s attention and she decided to split the States. However, it was not until mid-2013 that her party made a final and formal announcement in this regard.
Multiple articles on this site have continuously highlighted the shocking manner in which the bifurcation process was carried out. Our argument was strengthened by the fact that every single party (including TRS) had serious issues with the contents of the Bill that was introduced in Parliament in February 2014. The haste and pace at which it was carried out has put the process to a shame. The Congress sensed some electoral benefit into splitting the State without giving serious thought to various repercussions – the result – it faced a total rout in both the Telangana and Seemandhra regions! The environment was so polarised during the process that no party could get serious Amendments to the Bill, till BJP woke up in the Rajya Sabha and insisted on certain provisions to be included.
Evidence of the botched up process was visible last week. The Bill said RS members of the two States will be split by taking a lottery. Members were reluctant because they might get to be representatives of the other region! The lottery was postponed by two days, but there was no choice but to conduct the lottery. Four members from Telangana now represent Andhra Pradesh and five members of AP now represent Telangana!
Another big issue was the bandh called by the TRS, protesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi Cabinet’s decision to merge seven mandals of Khammam district into Andhra Pradesh. This ordinance makes an Amendment to the Bill passed by Parliament in February 2014, and alters the boundary of the State. Seven mandals in Khammam district have been allotted to the residuary State of Andhra Pradesh, because they fall under the submerged regions of the Polavaram national project. The TRS cried foul saying that this is against Constitutional provisions etc. However, this was an agreement reached in February 2014 itself between the then ruling and Opposition dispensations.
Since the Lok Sabha passed the Bill without any debate, the Government was reluctant to Amend the Bill and send it back to the Lower House from the Upper House. Any insistence on BJP’s part would mean a severe backlash against the party in the region – something they did not want. So a commitment was given by the UPA that an ordinance would be brought out merging these 7 mandals into AP instead of keeping them in Telangana. Various accounts indicate that they couldn’t do this because of the code of conduct.
Since the appointed day of the States is June 2, the Modi Cabinet passed this Ordinance (a decision to which they agreed to when in Opposition itself!). The argument for merging is that rehabilitation of the villagers will be easy if they belong to Andhra Pradesh instead of Telangana. The argument against is that the design of Polavaram project itself is flawed, and these mandals must remain in Telangana.
These are just two instances I listed above. There are some tensions in the manner in which the Government employees are being allotted. There will be multiple other issues that will crop up. This bifurcation is happening in a vitriolic atmosphere, and KCR’s recent rants are not helping in assuaging this feeling. The need for a statesman at the helm was never felt like this before. While it makes little sense to hamper on the past, it is crucial to note that such things need not happen again (an earlier article explains what can be done to avoid this.
Andhra Pradesh begins is new journey with a huge revenue deficit (so far, Hyderabad was the cash cow. Now, all revenue from Hyderabad will go to the Telangana Government), deficit of educational institutions, deficit of clarity on capital etc. Telangana begins its new journey with elation, and aspirations to usher in a new culture. The mood in Andhra Pradesh is pensive, whilst it is celebratory in Telangana. KCR has been sworn-in as the first Chief Minister of Telangana at 8 am on June 2. Chandrababu Naidu will take oath as the Chief Minister of AP at 7:27pm on June 8. Whilst the past cannot be done away with, we sincerely hope that the future of these two States will see equal prosperity being ushered in. The path is not smooth, but trust must be placed on the leaders at the helm. Chandrababu Naidu will have to summon all of his administrative acumen to bring AP out of the mess.
K Chandrashekhar Rao will have to step into a new role of being the administrator rather than the agitator. It is incumbent on these two leaders to show the way forward for both the States. Here’s wishing them all the best in this new endeavor.


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