The current escalating crisis in Andhra sparked by the Telangana demand is a lesson of how politics should not be conducted. It provides a damning indictment of Sonia Gandhi’s ineptitude. Thanks to her India now might well be destabilized by yet another smouldering crisis. The current crisis started after the accidental death of the late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy. Because of sentiment the overwhelming view of Andhra legislators was to make YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy, who was an MP, the new CM. For no compelling reason Sonia Gandhi resisted the demand. As the demand gathered momentum she unilaterally declared her commitment to make the separate state of Telangana. She thought this would divide Jagan Reddy’s support. Thereby she selected a remedy worse than the perceived ailment. The strongest and oldest demand for separate statehood is in Telangana. Due to late YSR’s political manipulation it was only smouldering. Now it has been ignited threatening to engulf Andhra in flames.
Telengana is in fact the pre-independence princely state of Hyderabad. The Nizam ruled Hyderabad. The state had a cultural identity apart from the rest of the Telegu speaking people who are spread in 22 districts. Only nine of these were in Hyderabad, the rest in the Madras Presidency. In 1953 all Telegu districts were carved out to make Andhra, the first state formed on a purely linguistic basis. Later Andhra was merged with the Telugu speaking area of Hyderabad to become present day Andhra Pradesh.
There is a common fallacy that is destabilizing the world today. It is the tendency to view all political demands only on the basis of economic well being. This is happening because the corporate world has subverted the political process. Economic prospects informing the big business mindset have all but extinguished political sentiment. This is a global phenomenon. Consider the subversion of the European Union concept as envisaged by its original 15 founding members by the mindless expansion of the Community in search for bigger markets.
The Sri Krishna Report on Telangana states that Telangana is not more backward than the rest of Andhra. The Report and politicians in general miss the point. The demand for Telangana is not based upon economic considerations. Deep down it is an assertion of identity. Identity that defines self rule or independence is crucial for the political process. Hegel and Max Weber wove an entire thesis around it. Karl Marx focused on economic interests as the defining criterion for global consolidation. History vindicated Hegel. It was pure nationalism that divided Soviet Union and China despite a common approach to economic theory. In India the governance provided by British colonialists was perhaps superior to that provided by the rulers who preceded them or those who followed them. But that did not dilute the urge for independence that sought to assert an Indian identity.
India opted for linguistic states after being compelled by an agitation. However, in the assertion of identity common language is but one factor defining group identity. Ethnicity, religion and shared experience common to a contiguous territory are other factors. That is why the establishment of linguistic states was a half step. A further study is required to consider shared history, dialect and economic viability of different territories to define statehood. The shared history of Telengana people united them culturally. The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was against merging Telengana with Andhra. The 1955 SRC report said: “We have come to the conclusion that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana area to constitute a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State.” The government ignored the recommendation and established present day Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
There is need for a second States Reorganization Commission. It should study the issue of identity. There are dormant statehood demands in all the large states. An inflamed Telangana could spread the demands for new states across India. It should be noted that Konkani Goa was not merged with Maharashtra due to its unique history of being ruled by the Portuguese. UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana were never considered as a mega state on account of all being Hindi speaking. The Commission should also consider the desirability of converting all metropolitan capitals of large states into city states playing host to government and assembly offices of the newly carved smaller states.
Chandigarh as a Union Territory successfully serves Punjab and Haryana. So might Hyderabad serve Telangana, Rayalseema and coastal Andhra. If instead of a panic expedient decision to create Telangana a national policy to review all large states had been announced the present discord in Andhra might never have erupted. The issue of smaller states should not be clouded by the fruitless debate about comparative governance in large and small states. There are states in both groups that are well and ill governed. The issue of identity is the strongest political urge from the village to district, state and national levels. For stable systems it should be respected and not submerged by a myopic obsession with the economic rate of growth.