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Telangana: Cong balances on seesaw of interests

December 24, 2009 00:32 IST

Home Minister P Chidambaram, who first made the midnight announcement promising Telangana, has now backtracked on his promise, making another announcement effectively putting Telangana on the backburner.

Till Wednesday afternoon, Chidambaram stated that it would be another senior minister and not him who will be making a statement, which only meant either Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Highly-placed sources in the government say that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked Pranab to make the second statement, rolling back the Telangana announcement. However, Mukherjee is learnt to have the told her that the second statement should come from the person who made the first statement, for better credibility. He also advised the
Congress president that the prime minister should be kept out of the picture.

In a short statement, the Union Home minister said, "At a meeting of all political parties on December 7 a consensus emerged on Telangana. The situation has altered now. Centre wants to take all views before coming to a decision. Peace and tranquillity should be maintained," he said.

This statement effectively put the demand for a separate state of Telangana in abeyance, as was being demanded by MPs and leaders crying for a united Andhra Pradesh, which also includes the powerful Reddy lobby as well as other interests that have been working overtime to fuel the anti-Telangana agitation.

Meanwhile, the pro-Telangana forces are on a warpath and the situation in the state is becoming increasingly difficult for the government

to control.

Having burnt its fingers with its own initiative, the Congress is now trying to pass the buck on to the Andhra leadership. The party said that Telangana was an old issue and it was for the collective political leadership of Andhra Pradesh to resolve the situation that has arisen due to regional divisions over its proposed statehood.

Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said it was for the "collective wisdom" of Andhra Pradesh leaders across the political spectrum to "sit down and form appropriate solution".

Answering queries about divisions in its Andhra Pradesh unit on Telangana, Tiwari said that it was an old issue, which has been grappled by "generations of leaders of the state".

He refused to comment on the remarks of Home Minister P Chidambaram, made earlier this month, giving principled clearance to the demand for a separate Telangana state.

Faced with deep divisions in its ranks in the state, the Congress has been trying to come out with a compromise formula to bring down political temperatures. The Congress core group met Monday evening while senior leaders met party president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday to evolve an appropriate response.

Congress sources said that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Antony, Chidambaram, Law Minister Veerapa Moily and Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, attended the meeting at Sonia Gandhi's residence.

The BJP, which is supporting the demand for a separate Telangana, has now called for a bandh and reports are that large-scale violence and destruction can be expected in the days ahead.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi