Friday, December 31, 2010

Telangana XIV: Will SKC strongly recommend a 'state-within-a-state'?

As Sri Krishna Committee(SKC) submitted its report yesterday, there has been anticipation and speculation on the 'options' the committee members said they will recommend to meet the aspirations of Telangana movement. This is what I feel. Looking at the committee members' statement that their report is seeking to achieve the "highest satisfaction of the largest number", the SKC seems to have given their strongest recommendation for a 'middle way' - one that results in Telangana as a separate administrative unit, but not a separate state. In short, Telangana could be a 'state within a state'.

Obviously, the SKC would list out a separate state as one of the 'choices' with its pros and cons but I guess they will make a strong case for the 'middle way' so that it is seriously considered by political parties and people of Telangana. Only after exhausting this option in all its forms, I guess the SKC would recommend central Government to consider granting statehood.

Present situation in Andhra Pradesh
Telangana movement has come to a point of no return. It is certain Andhra Pradesh would not continue politically for a long time as it is now. The state government's writ no more runs in Telangana, whether it is job recruitments or exams. Parties like TDP opposing the demerger (albeit covertly) are paying heavy political price. On the other hand, the demerger process has been 'too quick' and has not gone well with Andhrites, especially those who invested in Hyderabad and made it their home. One year the committee took did little to quell this disquiet.

It is this situation SKC could report and suggest a staged approach for gradual transition for the change to sink in. In this light, Telangana as a state may be realised only after a few years but the aspiration could be addressed immediately with an interim setup that initiates the demerger. This interim setup could be a 'state within a state', a middle way to assure both Andhra and Telangana that their concerns are taken care of.

Will Telangana get an interim setup?

After the SKC report submission, there could be discussions on laying down an interim setup in Telangana. This would while assuring Telanganites that things are moving would also buy time and make Andhrites involved to get assurances on their concerns - mainly river waters and their Hyderabad investments. The earlier experiment with a Telangana regional board failed because it had no constitutional mandate and it was a half-hearted token measure brought into effect to resemble self-rule. The board did not even have executive powers. Justice Fazal Ali in First SRC too suggested this would fail as these kind of regional authorities do not have constitutional mandate and hence no real teeth to implement their policies. This time the centre could hardsell this regional autonomous authority with a constitutional mandate with executive powers which means budget and policy at its disposal. Will the Telangana advocates be happy? I guess No. Telangana has now become a political aspiration more than anything. A matter of self-rule where they want their own real leaders to govern, not stooges as ministers and deputy CMs who are on 'Mute' mode all the time.

Telangana: State-within-a-State?

Telanganites now are in no mood to just settle for an administrative body, they will demand a law-making body - namely a legislature of their own. The Telangana regional authority/board, if recommended by SKC and proposed by centre would have a chance to get accepted by Telangana advocates only if the authority/board is given legislative powers. Now an authority with legislative powers would be equivalent to a state government. This is what is referred to as a 'state within a state'.

As this would be a state within a state, Hyderabad could serve as a 'joint-capital' of the regional authority and the Andhra Government in the interim period. The demerger could be completed after the stipulated interim period during which Andhra gets to build its political capital. This staged approach also can get support of common Andhrites who are opposing the demerger due to their emotional attachment and investments in the Hyderabad. In short, the demerger would be done without redrawing the map immediately! A revenue-sharing agreement could be mooted over the resources of Hyderabad for next 10 years or so with revenue being shared by Telangana regional authority and Andhra Govt. Over the years, the river water sharing will have to be worked out. After a stipulated number of years, the authority could metamorphose into a separate state and the demerger would be complete. Once this plan gets going, automatically Andhrites would be channelising their resources onto a new business capital in Coastal Andhra and Hyderabad would start losing the attention it has now as the crux of the problem.

Will anything other than statehood accepted?
If this is how the proposal comes, it would be interesting to see how the responses could be. Legislative powers and revenue-sharing over Hyderabad are tricky issues to agree over. Congress as a political party will salvage something on both sides - Andhra and Telangana. Right now it is in a pathetic situation and is seen as indecisive and rudderless. This proposal would be seen as affirmative and will score a few brownie points against TRS and YS Jaganmohan Reddy's unborn party. In Telangana, congress can prove it can do things on its own and deliver the state instead of just being a 'deer-in-the headlights' ready to be run over by the TRS juggernaut. After the disastrous by-polls, TDP too may not excuse itself out of the solution but may try along with the crony capitalists in congress to subvert the chance of the regional authority endowed with any legislative powers as that would mean losing the power to manipulate Hyderabad's resources.

It is again difficult to gauge Telanganites' reaction to the proposal. no meaningful debate happened over the last year and nothing prepared them for accepting a solution like this. They are expecting a 'state' in conventional sense. But if the legislative powers come through, especially without any clauses over Hyderabad, this could work for them. But with a specific time period after which the authority gives way to a full-fledged state. Till then, maybe the authority would have to report to the Governor.

Why I think a proposal like above can come up for discussion is because:
  • It won’t sound like someones triumph or defeat.
  • More importantly, this methodology could solve serious problems elsewhere in the country, like in Darjeeling, with constitutionally supported regional authorities which over time with or without a second SRC would metamorphose into separate states.
  • This is the only solution that will cool the tempers in AP and brings back a semblance of governance.
If the center tries to push for an authority without any legislative powers, I guess the streets would be full again of another round of agitation which would only result in a hardening of stance that would then settle for nothing less than statehood straightaway. 

Telanganites have relentlessly fought through democratic means to get their state and it is now time they are rewarded for their faith in democratic and constitutional means. They displayed patience and maturity and it is time that is acknowledged by the powers that be through a solution. Even in the pervasive political crookery we see every day, I have a hope the greatest civil movement I saw would fructify.


jshanthkumar said...

Wonderful article ra. You got immense knowledge in upcoming politics. Is it speculation or you got any source against this?

hariesh said...

A very rationale option no doubt, it addresses the core issues of the demerger. But given the background and the dubious history of safegaurds i doubt this will be acceptable to telanganites. But, on a larger perspective this looks viable option that upholds our aspirations and ultimatley our statehood as well.

Rajesh said...

very well written amar, just came across yr blog after a friend shared with me, it was nice to read yr articles about telangana-
good job