The sudden manner in which the Centre has chosen to address the demand for a separate state of Telangana, carved out of Andhra Pradesh, raises an important question for corporate India regarding the future of Hyderabad.
The 'triplet' cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad-Cyberabad have emerged as a major centre of business. The location of an international airport has further contributed to the globalisation of the city. Apart from the emergent business communities from various parts of Andhra Pradesh, especially coastal Andhra, businesses from across the country and the world have been investing in and around Hyderabad.
The future structure of governance in the country's sixth largest metropolis will be a matter of concern for all existing and potential investors. Apart from the impact on land values, there would be an impact on plans for a range of investments in and around the city.
Earlier decisions to bifurcate large states, as in the case of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, did not involve the future of any large metropolitan city. In the case of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad's future is critically linked to the manner in which the question of Telangana is resolved.
The idea of making Hyderabad a Union Territory has been mooted for long. It is not clear if such issues have been considered by the group of wise men from the United Progressive Alliance, led by veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, that was charged with the responsibility of addressing the issue of Telangana.
It is, in fact, unfortunate that the Union government chose to buckle under the pressure of a fast unto death by a politician whose party did not fare particularly well in recent elections even as the ruling Congress, whose manifesto did not even promise statehood for Telangana, did remarkably well, without allowing the Mukherjee group to finish its deliberations.
It is also not clear why the Congress and the UPA government never chose to implement some of the solutions that came out of the earlier agitation for a separate Telangana in 1969-70, especially the idea of creating Regional Development Boards with region-specific budgets and plan allocations.
Whatever the final political settlement on Telangana, India Inc would be deeply interested in the future of Hyderabad, especially policies pertaining to urban governance and infrastructure development. The decision of a sitting Congress Member of Parliament to resign on the issue opens up the new problem of whether the rest of the state would be satisfied with bifurcation or there would be trifurcation with Andhra and Rayalaseema created as new states.
It remains to be seen how the Congress will handle the issue in coming months, having fudged the issue for so many years and now capitulating under pressure.
One eminently sensible way of handling all the issues is to be found in the UPA's national common minimum programme of 2004, to which even K Chandrashekhar Rao's Telangana Rashtra Samithi had signed up. It had promised the constitution of a second States Reorganisation Commission.
With demands for a Harit Pradesh and Bundelkhand in the north, the time may have come for a new SRC.