Photo: Make-shift tents in Kurnool town – capital city of erstwhile Andhra state
By: Amar Nath
As the Centre’s self-imposed deadline to arrive at a discussion on Telangana is fast approaching, there is heightened lobbying in Delhi on the impending decision and the contours of it. An experience with recent events and a look at our history shows how backroom deals influence these decisions and the consequences of these. In light of the debate over Capital city, it is all the more relevant to go back in history and see how a protagonist in one such backroom deals operated and engineered the coup that ironically resulted in the present mess in Telangana.
Rajaji was one of the most respected statesmen of this country. He was the chief minister of Madras state when the Andhra state was carved out of it. What is public knowledge is that he not only vociferously opposed the Andhras’ claim over Madras as their capital but also did not accept their request to make Madras as a temporary capital while they make a transition to their new capital within Andhra. However, some lesser known facts mentioned in his biography ‘I meet Rajaji’ by Monica Felton shows the covert deal made on this historic moment. These details were written about by Shri Gautam Pingle sometime back and this should serve as cautionary tale for Telangana agitators who are naïve enough to trust the Congress or other political parties in making a just and rational solution for Telangana’s statehood and its capital.
Sometime after the merger of Hyderabad state and Andhra state in 1956, Monica Felton who wrote Rajaji’s biography: ’I meet Rajaji’ was in Hyderabad when Rajaji arrived there and had met with Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao, who was the first Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. Mr. Rao was a close confidante of Rajaji for many years and also served in various positions in Rajaji’s cabinet in erstwhile Madras state (He was also President of Vishalandra Maha Sabha and Vice- President of the Andhra Provincial Congress Party by the time the erstwhile Andhra state was inaugurated in October 1953). He invited Rajaji to tea with a small set of friends, including Dr. Jayasuriya and Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Ms. Felton mentions in her book that Rajaji began to talk about the disputes over separation of Andhra from Madras State and the then demand for the inclusion of Madras City in Andhra. Monica Felton describes the conversation as below.
He (Rajaji) said: “You were determined to have Madras”.
They laughed “Indeed, yes”, somebody chuckled. “But you gave up the idea at once”, Rajaji said, “when I offered you Hyderabad as your capital”. “Ah, yes”, said another, “we never thought of that possibility”. (Rajaji said) “No that was a real surprise, wasn’t it?”
It is clear from the excerpt above that even while Hyderabad was operating as a separate state from 1948, influential Andhra leaders bargained and got a deal from Rajaji, the towering figure in INC, that they would have Hyderabad city as their capital if they stop claiming Madras. This also confirms what Rayalaseema leaders like MV Ramana Reddy have been repeatedly saying – That making Kurnool as capital of Andhra was just posturing and was never a serious attempt in building a new capital for Andhra. The Andhras were playing a waiting game from the tents of Kurnool for the dismantling of Hyderabad state and formation of so-called ‘Visalandhra’ with Hyderabad as its capital. Hyderabad politicians like Burgula Ramakrishna Rao were just collateral damage and had to just make way for the more influential Andhra congress leaders. So out went the Fazal Ali’s 1st SRC recommendation on letting Telangana survive as a separate state. And the rest we know is history, a not-so-pleasant one.
Today, In case of demerger, while it is next to impossible to make Hyderabad a union territory, any talk about Hyderabad being made a joint capital or one with ‘special status’, should be taken with a pinch of salt. They would just form an excuse for another coup for the Andhra plutocrats to perpetuate their control over Hyderabad.