Leaders from coastal region -- cutting across political affiliations -- gathered in the coastal city of Vijayawada on Monday to voice their demand for separate Andhra. They chose the 34th death anniversary of 'Jai Andhra' movement protagonist and former minister Kakani Venkataratnam who died of shock at the height of separate Andhra agitation on December 25, 1972 when eight people were killed in police firing.
Those who attended the 'condolence' meeting recalled the 'sacrifices' made during the Jai Andhra movement in 1972-73, which was a sequel to 'Jai Telangana' movement for separate statehood during 1969-71. In both the separatist agitations, about 600 agitators were killed, mainly in police firings. President's rule was imposed for the first (and last) time in Andhra Pradesh on January 18, 1973.
President's rule was revoked after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi evolved the Six-Point Formula for keeping the state united by offering safeguards to the people of these distinct regions.
Prominent participants at Monday's meeting included Kavuri Sambasiva Rao (Congress MP from Eluru), Pinnamaneni Koteswara Rao (former Zilla Parishad chairman and father of Higher Education Minister P Venkateswara Rao), Vasantha Nageswara Rao (AP State Cooperative Bank chairman), Chanumolu Venkata Rao (legislator and former minister), Paladugu Venkat Rao (former minister), Ch V P Murthy Raju (former minister), Kadiyala Raghava Rao (former ZP chairman), Karnati Ramamohana Rao (eminent advocate) and Yalamanchili Sivaji and Yarlagadda Lakshmi Prasad (former TDP MPs).
"If leaders of all parties in Telangana are seeking a separate state strongly, I think the Congress high command should take a decision at the earliest in the interest of everybody. I recently conveyed to All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi the need to elicit the views of leaders of coastal Andhra about the division of the state," K S Rao told the meeting which was held in the backdrop of the victory of Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and former union minister K Chandrasekhar Rao in the recent Lok Sabha bypoll in Karimnagar. His impressive win by a majority of 2 lakh votes was attributed to the "Telangana sentiment" prevailing among the electorate.
"Kakani Venkataratnam died for the cause of Andhra. The coastal districts are still being ignored. The Central government is discussing with Telangana leaders the separate state issue but it has never consulted leaders from the coastal districts," complained Y Sivaji. "Development is seen only in and around Hyderabad and it is time the coastal districts also develop rapidly," he added.
Y Lakshmi Prasad felt that the coastal region would have developed faster by now had the state been bifurcated in the 1970s. Paladugu Venkata Rao said that the Congress high command had taken the stance in favour of constitution of a Second States' Reorganisation Commission to go into the issue and there was no change. Some of the participants suggested that the capital of Andhra state should be located between Vijayawada and Guntur.
Reacting to the Vijayawada meeting, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president K Keshava Rao said that there was nothing wrong with the demand by coastal leaders for separate Andhra state when a similar demand was made for separate Telangana state. He assured that the demand for separate Andhra and separate Telangana would be included in the agenda of APCC's two-day meeting (Medho Madhanam) on January 4 and 5 at Hyderabad.
TRS president Chandrasekhar Rao welcomed the call for separate Andhra. "There is no need for rancour. People of Telangana and Andhra should respect each other even during the process of separation," he said.