Now that the Srikrishna Committee on Telangana has completed its job, it is for the Union government and the political process to take a call on the situation in Andhra Pradesh.
Although the committee talked about six options, four of them were set up by it as dummies to be shot down. The five-member body clearly put its weight behind the option of keeping the state united. However, it recommended that some constitutional and statutory measures be put in place to allay the apprehensions in the minds of the people of Telangana region. It recommended the bifurcation of the state only if it is ‘unavoidable’. While agitators for a separate Telangana unequivocally rejected the recommendations, ‘integrationists’ from the coastal region expressed happiness over them.
In the coming months, attention will be focussed on the shape the separate Telangana agitation will take and on its impact on the business and investment climate of Hyderabad. The developments will also have a bearing on the stability of the state Congress government. The political fallout in the state is important because it is the main pillar of strength for the Congress-led UPA at the Centre. Without the 33 MPs given by the state Congress, the party could not have formed UPA-2.
With the Srikrishna Committee revealing its preferred solution in no uncertain terms, the Centre is unlikely to make an announcement in favour of creating Telangana state. It will try to structure the discussions with political parties to evolve a consensus on constitutional or statutory mechanisms to keep the state united. It would not like to think bifurcation as an ‘unavoidable’ course of action. Telangana state protagonists would like to create conditions to make the bifurcation of the state ‘unavoidable’. In other words, they will have no option but to try and make their preferred solution the only and ‘unavoidable’ course of action for the Centre to address the situation.
Despite announcements by main political formations that they would carry on their agitation for a separate state peacefully, Hyderabad will, in all likelihood, witness disruptions that will adversely impact its business climate. This is because the mainstream political formations have very limited control over the groups that are likely to resort to violent forms of agitations. This is perhaps the essence of the message the Srikrishna Committee passed on to the home ministry in the sealed cover. It did not deal with the law and order aspect in the open report. It said that it conveyed its opinion on it separately to the government.
Businesses in Hyderabad, therefore, are wary. Most of the software establishments are moving their project teams with tight timelines to other cities so that their delivery schedules are not compromised. Many of the offices and malls with glass facades have made huge investments in throwing protective nets around their buildings. In the short run, and only in the short run, there will be room for this kind of apprehensions to prevail. This climate is unlikely to last long, though. However, the realty sector’s recovery will be delayed at least by one more year, if not more. Hyderabad will be put in the category of less preferred investment destinations.
In the next few weeks, Congress and Telugu Desam legislators from the Telangana region will come under intense pressure to resign their Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. Telangana protagonists who are outside the mainstream political formations have time and again said that a separate state is possible only if the state plunges into a constitutional crisis. If the leaderships of the respective parties cave in, the state will surely face a political crisis and the Centre will not have any other option but to impose President’s rule. And that is likely to be a long spell.
After the grandstanding and posturing are done with, the long-term impact of the Srikrishna Committee on the attitudes of the political parties towards the division and unity of the state will inevitably come to surface. The committee’s report will be remembered not for the six options that it had discussed. It will become a point of reference in the years to come, mainly for its examination of development and backwardness of various regions in the state since its formation. On the other hand, it will also create conditions for a more proactive and conscious public policy with regard to deployment of resources. The report said that the demand for separation is ‘not without justification’. But in the same breath it also showed that the shrill propaganda of economic exploitation, backwardness, and political domination are not borne out by data and historical facts.
If the political and business leaderships in the state steel themselves to ride out the temporary storm that might rage in the coming weeks, the state will be back on rails sooner than later. And Hyderabad will soon regain the sheen it lost. Andhra Pradesh has provided linguistic organisation of states as the principal element of the architecture for the Indian Republic. If it rides out this storm, it would have done its bit to save India the labour of searching for an alternative architecture. Alternative to language as an organising principle could be religion, caste, ethnicity, or even all of them. This search should be the last thing that India should expend its energies on in the second decade of the 21st century.
(The writer is managing director of RightFOLIO, a branding consultancy based in Hyderabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)