With the centre appearing set to announce its decision on the Telangana issue this month, Andhra Pradesh may once again slip into political chaos as leaders from both the Telangana and Seemandhra regions are threatening a showdown.
Alarmed over reports that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has decided to give into the demand for separate Telangana state, leaders from Seemandhra (as the Rayalaseema and Andhra regions are referred to), irrespective of their political affiliations, are joining ranks to oppose division of the state.
Making it clear that any move to bifurcate the state would be unacceptable to them, they have decided to take on the centre. Their argument is that a state formed for Telugu-speaking people can't be divided.
At the same time, the hectic activity in the Congress' central leadership to find a solution to the Telangana problem has raised hopes in the region that the people's aspirations for their own state will finally be met.
Keeping their political affiliations aside, the leaders in Telangana have also conveyed to the centre that their patience is wearing out. "Despite the insults we had to face on numerous occasions at the hands of people, we exercised restraint for the last three years. Now the time has come to meet the long-pending demand of the people," said senior cabinet minister K. Jana Reddy while criticising the Seemandhra leaders for creating hurdles.
With the D-day of Jan 28 fast approaching, the suspense is heightening in both the camps. Some Seemandhra leaders who visited Delhi got hints that the Congress leadership has made up its mind to carve out a Telangana state. It was only after this that the Seemandhra leaders met in Hyderabad and declared that "nothing short of a united Andhra Pradesh is acceptable to us".
Some leaders from the ruling Congress, opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) have even threatened mass resignations in the event of the centre agreeing to initiate the process for forming Telangana. "Will you divide a state for votes and seats?" asked G. Srinivasa Rao, a minister from the Andhra region.
He pointed out that 100 elected representatives, including state legislators and MPs from Seemandhra, resigned in a single day after the Dec 9, 2009, statement of the centre initiating the process for forming Telangana.
The UPA government later put the process on hold, saying it need to have more consultations. With all the major parties divided on the issue along regional lines and a consensus evasive, it kept delaying on a decision. As the pressure mounted from the Congress' own leaders in Telangana, union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced after a Dec 28, 2012, meeting that the decision on the issue would be taken within a month.
A section of leaders from Seemandhra have even stated that they are ready to lay down their lives to keep the state united like those who sacrificed their lives to achieve the state for Telugu-speaking people in 1956.
The Congress, which is yet to officially take a stand on the issue, has apparently decided to carve out Telangana after its leaders warned that the party would be wiped out from the region, which comprises 10 districts, including state capital Hyderabad.
Political observers also point out that the opposition to Telangana state is not as strong as it was a couple of years ago. Several leaders from Seemandhra have stated that they will abide by whatever decision the centre takes on the issue. They have even ruled out submitting their resignations in the event of a decision to bifurcate the state.
Political observers say it is important how the government deals with the issue of Hyderabad. A majority of Seemandhra leaders may not be averse to bifurcation if Hyderabad is made joint capital of the two states for at least a decade. Such a move will placate Seemandhra leaders and other stakeholders and address their concerns over their business interests.
Pro-Telangana groups are not ready to accept a Telangana state without Hyderabad and may also agree to share the city with Seemandhra for a fixed period. Sources in the Congress said the central leadership is trying to find common ground to come out with a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem.
Even parties like the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which were opposing Andhra Pradesh's division, want the centre to end the uncertainty haunting the state for three years.