India’s 29th state is born with electoral arithmetic

For Congress, surrendering to the demand for Telangana state will now have a domino effect with more regions demanding statehood.

The federal cabinet on Thursday formally decided to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana as India’s 29th state.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced after a nearly two-hour cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that a decision was taken to split Andhra Pradesh to create Telangana.

According to the decision taken in line with the July 30 resolution of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), Telangana will comprise 10 districts with Hyderabad as the joint capital of both states for 10 years. The cabinet also decided to set up a group of ministers (GoM) to address issues arising out of bifurcation.

This decision has set in action the process of fulfilling a decades-old demand for separate statehood to the region in Andhra Pradesh. Going by the track record, it was doubtful whether the government would ultimately take the plunge and support the creation of a separate state that would house 40 percent of Andhra Pradesh’s 840 million population.

In the first year of their second term in power, the Congress declared that it would kick off measures for the formation of separate Telangana state, but it backed off within days in wake of the large scale protests in the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions that opposed the bifurcation of the state.

But this latest development is based on the electoral calculations ahead of the approaching general elections. With the formation of a separate state, the Congress will gain two electoral benefits – first the party will have an edge in the state and Lok Sabha polls from the region and second the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has championed the cause of Telangana, may merge with the Congress. Telangana has 17 of the 42 parliamentary constituencies in Andhra Pradesh. The state will hold state assembly and general elections simultaneously in 2014.

Still the party has risked losing the remaining seats – only those with strong ground-level support will be able to survive the anit-Telangana wave in the other regions. And the YSR Congress led by Congress dissenter Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had threatened to corrode the tradition voter base of the Congress. This is also one of the reasons behind Congress’s urgency to resolve the Telangana tangle to protect its electoral chances in that region.

In contrast to other statehood demands, the movement for Telangana had been purely political and not based on discordant linguistic lines. The culture, tradition, language and terrain of Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema regions are alike.

For Congress, surrendering to the demand for Telangana state will now have a domino effect with more regions demanding statehood. For example, people of Darjeeling have been demonstrating demanding the creation of Gorkhaland state. The culture, language, traditions and even the geographical terrain of the region are completely dissimilar from the rest of West Bengal, making a strong case for statehood.

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