By: N. Venugopal
Congress high command is again at the game it is good at – cheating people, avoiding what they demand and pushing down their throats what they do not like. Right now the rumour mills in Delhi are working overtime to churn out the new package on the offer. The rulers seem to think that the fire of Telangana aspirations could be doused with a ridiculous idea called Rayala Telangana. Of course, to set the record straight, it was one of the options given by Sri Krishna Committee. However, even the committee did not think of dividing and decimating Rayalaseema to split it and throw two districts in coastal Andhra and another two in Telangana. There could not have been more dubious proposal than merging two districts – Kurnool and Anantapur – from Rayalaseema with Telangana to form Rayala Telangana, but the Congress seems to have conceived it and tutored its Telangana leadership to promote the same. The proposal, however, would be completely rejected by Telangana people. Apart from a certain negative response to the idea from Telangana people as well as leaders, even at objective academic level the proposal is most atrocious and untenable.
At the outset, history does not support such a proposal. Except for about a little more than two hundred years in the long history over two thousand years these two Telugu-speaking parts never remained under a single political entity. The two regions did not form part of a single empire under the Satavahanas or the Kakatiyas, the only two kingdoms under whom most of the Telugu land was under one dispensation. Only after the Vijayanagara empire was defeated by Deccan Sultanates in 1565 the present Rayalaseema region joined Golconda kingdom. Then the unity continued for another 130 years under the Qutb Shahis till they fell. Subsequently the Asif Jahis controlled the present Rayalaseema for about seven decades from 1724 till 1799, when they ceded the districts to the British. Thanks to this historical divergence, Rayalaseema and Telangana never felt one. Even after 1956 when the region, as part of Andhra state was merged with Telugu districts of Hyderabad state, the legacy of historical disunity continued. While it is nobody’s case that the creation of states should be based on historical unity alone, history nevertheless plays a major role in identity formation.
Coming to the question of identity, Rayalaseema, as well as Telangana, have been feeling their own separate and distinct identities for a long time. Telananga for its historical reasons felt so and Rayalaseema, though a part of Madras presidency, marked itself as a separate identity away from Telugu-speaking brethren in the same presidency. When coastal Andhra leaders tried to build a Telugu identity in Tamil-dominated multi-lingual state, it was Rayalaseema leaders like Kadapa Koti Reddy, Pappuri Ramacharyulu, Kalluri Subba Rao, etc who spoke of separate identity of their region. In fact, the name Rayalaseema itself was developed to show the uniqueness.
Now if two districts of Rayalaseema are divided and attached to Telangana to form a separate state, it will be a disaster for both the regions. Telangana which is fighting to have a separate state based on its unique identity will get a distorted state with two identities. Rayalaseema which is claiming a unique identity for over a century now will be split into two and get mutilated. Thus the new proposal will neither be here nor be there.
In view of political legacy as well as current and future political calculations also, the idea of Rayala Telangana is a definite recipe for catastrophe. Telangana has been accusing the government of Andhra Pradesh for its predicament of denial of fair share and violation of promises. The saga began with the first chief minister N Sanjiva Reddy who hailed from Anantapur, part of the proposed Rayala Telangana. The other three chief ministers accused of highhandedness by Telanganites, N Chandrababu Naidu, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and N Kiran Kumar Reddy, all hail from Rayalaseema, though from the districts other than proposed to be merged. This political legacy is the source of a negative image of Rayalaseema politicians in the minds of Telangana people and the apprehension is more likely to continue. One should remember that the 1956 merger also began with this kind of fears and apprehensions which ultimately led to the current imbroglio. Thus Andhra Pradesh had congenital disorders and at least now one should be cautious enough to not make another state with similar congenital disorders.
Even if the coherent logic against the proposal is bulldozed and suppressed and the proposed state is formed, it will have about 147 assembly constituencies with a ridiculous situation where any party that supported Telangana cannot contest in Rayalaseema. The region with about 28 seats can always become a spoilsport and a tool in the hands of vested interests to scuttle any scheme that is expected to redress Telangana grievances. Thus the complaints of Telangana about denial of justice and fair share would remain intact.
During the recent movement for Telangana, particularly after December 9, 2009, it was the leaders of these two districts, like JC Diwakar Reddy, S Sailajanath, P Keshav, TG Venkatesh, E Pratap Reddy, etc. who were in the forefront of opposing Telangana demands and there is no way that removes the animosity provoked by their gestures. Beginning a new state with this kind of lingering carry-over bitterness would be a terrible idea, to say the least.
While putting forth these arguments against the merger of two Rayalaseema districts with Telangana, one should not be blind to the real grievances of Rayalaseema, which might have given scope for this proposal, at least in some quarters. Apprehensions on the access to water resources and the city that gives more opportunities are genuine. But even if the four Rayalaseema districts become part of residual Andhra Pradesh or formed into a separate state, these two issues could be discussed at inter-state level and provided the necessary safeguards, with the cooperation of Centre and friendly neighbours. Rayalaseema leaders might also be apprehending the big-brotherly attitude of the leaders of coastal Andhra, given the historical experience of the violation of Shri Bagh Pact of 1937. But it would be unfair to penalise Telangana for the apprehensions on somebody else.