New Delhi: TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s failing health in the wake of his fast unto death was a major factor that led to the UPA government conceding the demand for carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh on December 9, 2009, says former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh.
The highest echelons of the government had information that ground situation in Hyderabad was grave and “something substantial” had to be done to retrieve it, he says in his new book ‘Old History and new Geography—Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, which was released here.
“KCR’s (K Chandrasekhar Rao) health was one major factor influencing the decision-making. The other was related to the role that Maoists and their sympathizers may have been playing to aggravate the situation,” the Congress leader says in the 242-page book.
Ramesh, who was elected to Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh last time, was part of the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up by the UPA government in October 2013 to prepare the legislation for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, which was incidentally India’s first state to be carved out on linguistic basis.
“Clearly, the highest echelons of the government had information that led them to believe that the ground situation in Hyderabad was grave and something really substantive had to be done to retrieve the situation.
“The Home Minister (P Chidambaram) must have the reason to believe that the Pottu Sriramulu moment had arrived once more in Andhra Pradesh,” says Ramesh.
Sriramulu, who was on fast unto death demanding separate Andhra Pradesh, died during the night of 15 December 1952. The move sparked wide spread riots.
Home Minister P Chidambaram issued the statement announcing the decision to create Telangana based on his assessment derived from intelligence and other reports.
Ramesh says the statement itself was “evidently finalised” at the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence with Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee (then Finance Minister) and K Rosaiah (then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) present and had “apparently followed consultations with the other leaders of the Congress”.
Ramesh claimed the book is a first-person, inside narrative of the process of bifurcation as observed and recorded by someone who participated in it closely. Further, the perspective is Delhi centric.
“It tells the story of how Telangana was created as I saw it and that too during a limited period October 8, 2013 and May 13 2014 when, by forces that I can only ascribe to the mysterious force called destiny, I came to occupy a pivotal role in the process of bifurcation’.
At the same time, Ramesh makes it clear that “what went into the decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh and what determined its timing was, honestly, unknown to me.”
In November 1956, a unified Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh came into being. In February 2014, Parliament bifurcated it to create two Telugu-speaking states: Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Published by Rupa Publications, the book claims to provide the “context, text and subtext” to the bifurcation, which continues to be contentious.
After becoming a member of the GoM, Ramesh was the prime mover and its public face and was thus always in the crossfire as it strove to balance competing claims and differing demands to ensure a just and equitable outcome.
While there was tussle for Hyderabad, Union Ministers from Seemandhra argued that the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HDMA), which generated close to half of the undivided state’s revenue, should be designated as a common capital.
The HDMA covered around 7,100 sq kms of area spanning five districts of Telangana. However, the TRS argued that if at all the city is made a common capital, then it should be restricted to Hyderabad Revenue District, which covers 217 sq kms.
“This too was briefly debated. Ultimately GoM felt that fairness demanded that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area be designated as the common capital zone. This spread across 625 sq kms that had been increased to about 923 sq kms in September 2013,” Ramesh said in his book.
Another idea that was discussed for some time in the GoM, which was also shot down, was of a Common Capital Governance Council. Under this, the body was to be a temporary one subject to review after five years.
The governor was to be the chairperson of the council, with members being the Chief Ministers of the two states, key civil and police officers from both the state and the centre.
“The idea didn’t get support on the grounds that this would simply not be acceptable to the Telangana government once the state came into being. Besides, the Home Minister, and the Home Secretary felt that the move would not stand the test of legality.
“The Law Ministry gave its opinion that such a coordination council would violate List II of the SeventhSchedule of the Constitution dealing with the powers of the state,” Ramesh said.