By: Nitin Harkara
The state of Andhra Pradesh is currently faced with the rather piquant situation of its Chief Minister having become the self-appointed leader of just one half of the state. He has also turned into the most vocal public spokesman for Seemandhra’s interests. Never in the history of independent India have we witnessed a situation where the head of a state’s government has completely abdicated his responsibilities in terms of representing all segments of his constituents, and become an advocate for one region’s interests alone.
This scenario becomes even more bizarre when one considers that the same Chief Minister may in fact be working actively to subvert the legitimate aspirations of Telangana, the other half of the state he purportedly governs. There are even rumors that this gentleman may be turning a blind eye to-, or even abetting, the self-defeating and half-hearted agitation in Seemandhra against the formation of Telangana as India’s 29th state.
The situation in Seemandhra, where large segments of the economy and daily life have been significantly affected over the last several weeks, threatens to deteriorate further with ever-more raucous calls from various organizations to step up the agitation against Telangana. With the Union Government moving forward in a purposeful manner towards establishing Telangana, the entire agitation instigated by vested interests in Seemandhra seems to be a rather absurd exercise in futility. Even so, it is generally feared now that the situation may go from bad to worse, with needless destruction of public property, and with the ominous possibility of violence against the common citizen.
The Union Government can no longer afford to disregard the rapidly worsening situation in Andhra Pradesh, where governance is at a standstill, and the threat of mayhem looms on the horizon. Imposition of President’s Rule in the state is imperative at this critical juncture.
President’s Rule, of course, refers to Article 356 of the Constitution of India which deals with the failure of the Constitutional machinery of an Indian state. It specifies that in the event the government in a state is not able to function as per the Constitution, the state must be brought under the direct control of the central government, with executive authority exercised through the state’s Governor. The Governor would have the authority to appoint retired civil servants or other administrators to assist him, and these advisors would assume the functions of state’s Council of Ministers.
It is clear that the Chief Minister no longer has the loyalty of half of his ministers, the Telangana contingent now treating him with barely-concealed contempt. And, as the self-appointed spokesman for Seemandhra, he no longer seems to care about his accountability to the state legislature composed of representatives from Seemandhra as well as Telangana. It is time for the Union Government to act decisively and marshal the necessary resources to re-establish a semblance of political and administrative order in Andhra Pradesh state.
A similar breakdown of law and order was witnessed in the early 1970s during Shri P.V.Narasimha Rao’s tenure as Chief Minister due to the Jai Andhra Agitation. The state was kept under President’s Rule for most of 1973. It would seem appropriate for the Union Government to follow this course of action at the earliest, and continue President’s Rule until the election and swearing-in of a duly elected state government in May 2014.
The well-being of 35 million people in Telangana and 50 million people in Seemandhra cannot be held hostage due to the wayward actions of a recalcitrant Chief Minister and his coterie. The time to act is now.