Bite the bullet, create Telangana

By Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr

Politicians, opinion-makers and the articulate middle class in the Telangana region are convinced that there is no alternative to a separate state. The Andhra and Rayalaseema politicians, opinion-makers and the articulate middle class have no objection to a Telangana state as long as Hyderabad is not given away.

They have over the last half-century and more invested hundreds of crores and also of course unquantifiable emotions.

The Telugu film industry, which is one of the most vibrant in the country, rivalling at times Mumbai’s Hindi cinema, has taken root in Hyderabad in the last 30 years. And it is dominated by the coastal Andhra producers, directors, actors and a majority of non-Telugu-speaking actresses, many of them from Punjab, Maharashtra, Goa and Tamil Nadu.

There is a deep fear that Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana would undermine and somehow pose a threat to the Andhra investments. The Telangana leaders are bending over backwards to assure the Andhra investors, entrepreneurs and filmmakers that Hyderabad, as the capital of Telangana, would welcome Andhra investments, and Andhra financial interests in Hyderabad would be protected. The Andhra business class is not convinced by the assurances.

The reason seems to be quite simple. Without Andhra political dominance, Andhra financial interests can neither be protected nor promoted. This leads back to the root of the problem — that Andhra political power was the main reason for the Andhra economic clout in Hyderabad. This is something that makes eminent sense in Marxian dogmatics.

Though everyone on all sides — the Telangana leaders, the Andhra politicians and the bigwigs in the Congress at the national level and in the central government — is trying to skirt round the issue, the real problem is over the status of Hyderabad. The Andhra people do not want to let go of it. They believe fiercely and passionately that it is they who made Hyderabad what it is today, and they are not willing to abandon their labour.

The hapless Telangana leaders and their middle-class supporters, who have never been in a position to give fillip to economic growth in Hyderabad on the same scale as the Andhra people had managed to do, are indeed at a disadvantage to make their case for the city except on the commonsensical ground that Hyderabad is in the heart of Telangana in geographical terms.

They cannot rightly claim for the status of Hyderabad as an economic and cultural growth centre. They lack the Andhra panache that comes from being in command of political and capitalist resources.

Instead of taking the tricky problem head on, the central leaders and their advisers in the internal security wings, including Andhra Pradesh governor ESL Narasimhan, a former police officer, are trying to conjure the ghosts of Naxalism, while parties like the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which claim to represent Muslim interests in Hyderabad and in Telangana districts cite the danger of anti-minorityism in the new state and the dominance of rightwing Hindu parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party which is endorsed by Congress leaders who favour a united Andhra Pradesh. But the basic issue is that of Andhra investments in Hyderabad.

The formation of Telangana will be accepted by the Andhra people only through a hefty financial package, which would run into a few hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees, which would involve the building of a separate Andhra capital, and damages for dislocating the Andhra industry, including the film sector, from the city. Nothing else would do.

This is something that the central leaders cannot even think of and the Telangana leaders would rightly claim is not their concern.

The Andhra people had suffered a similar dislocation in 1953 when they had to abandon the then Madras city, which became the capital of the state of what is now Tamil Nadu, and they became the state of Andhra with Kurnool as their capital. The Andhra people thought they had found a permanent haven in Hyderabad. They are unwilling to accept a second exodus.

A bold and imaginative leadership takes difficult decisions so that the future becomes smooth. A clever leadership, on the other hand, looks for unsatisfactory and complicated compromises which will keep the problem festering forever. The compromises may make for good politics but it is bad for the people of Andhra and Telangana.

The leaders of Telangana will have to accept the burden of a costly alimony payment for severing the ties. The centre should facilitate the separation and structure and schedule the payment to be made in lieu of Hyderabad.

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