Hyderabad, May 18 : With the completion of five state assembly elections, Andhra Pradesh is keenly waiting for Congress' call on the vexatious state bifurcation issue.
For years the Congress has dodged the issue fearing a political backlash. But its indecisiveness on either creating a Telangana state or keeping Andhra Pradesh united has only been aggravating the unrest among people of the two regions.
To say that the entire state has been pushed into turmoil on all fronts - particularly since December 2009 on account of the Congress' dithering stand will only be an understatement.
The distress caused to ordinary people, the beating that the state's image had taken notably on the investment front, the internal rift that the main political parties of the state were left with and the enormous loss caused to the state exchequer on account of the strife are now part of history.
But, history threatens to repeat if the Congress drags its feet.
The Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has bought time, from the aggressive statehood proponents, till completion of polls to five state assemblies even as close to five months elapsed since the five-member Justice Srikrishna Committee submitted its recommendations on the contentious subject.
Now that elections are over, the separatists are ready to up the ante once again and go all out in their quest for the state of Telangana that so far remained elusive for them.
Not only the separatists but also the integrationists are seeking an immediate solution to the crisis.
“From June 1, we will put Telangana on the boil and even take our struggle to the international level,” declared the separatist leader K Chandrasekhar Rao, whose Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has been in the forefront of the statehood struggle.
“It is time for the Government of India to take a clear decision in favour of Telangana. Else, we will go to any extent to realise our aspirations,” regional leaders of the ruling Congress warned.
Having suffered a severe setback in which was once its stronghold, Telugu Desam Party too is gearing up for an open fight this time and has announced its first step of agitation programme in the form of a three-day ‘padayatra' (foot march) beginning May 23.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is keen on re-establishing its base in the region by taking a lead in the statehood struggle, is also organising a massive rally in Karimnagar on May 31 to galvanise public support for the cause.
Government employees, on the other hand, have threatened to stop work once again if the Central government continued to dilly-dally on Telangana.
There are other groups in the region, particularly the student community, that have been taking an active part in the statehood agitations along with the political parties, often resorting to violence.
Worried are the common people whose lives will be largely affected if the separatists once again unleash strife to meet their objective.
On the other side, the Andhra-Rayalaseema regions remained relatively peaceful despite the state bifurcation demand reaching a feverish pitch in Telangana. Though for a brief period in early 2010 protests erupted in Andhra-Rayalaseema regions with the demand that the state not be split, peace prevailed after the Justice Srikrishna Committee was constituted.
The state fears, as it was mentioned in the Committee's report as well, that trouble may erupt in any particular region if the Centre's decision went against it.
“That is inevitable. But the Centre cannot hold its decision on this pretext. It should take an immediate decision either way and settle the issue once and for all,” a group of ministers firmly told Union Minister and AICC General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad when he interacted with them here yesterday. It was a unanimous appeal made by ministers from Telangana as well as Andhra-Rayalaseema regions.
The MPs, MLAs and MLCs from the respective regions, however, spoke for and against the bifurcation - the stands they had taken for long.
Ironically, even when things have come to such a pass, Azad sought to weigh the political fallout for the Congress if the Telangana statehood demand is conceded or not. “Can you people assure Congress' victory in the next elections if Telangana is granted,” he reportedly questioned party leaders from the region at his meeting.
Only one so-called ‘veteran' leader rose to say “I will.” Interestingly, Azad reportedly did not seek any such assurance from Andhra-Rayalaseema leaders. Whatever be the implications for the Congress, people of Andhra Pradesh are only looking for a solution that will ensure lasting peace and progress.