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Is Congress rethinking on Telangana promise?

By Renu Mittal
December 16, 2009 00:20 IST
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Ducking and running for cover following the Telangana muddle, the United Progresive Alliance government is now looking to once again pursue the case for a united Andhra Pradesh after divisions surfaced in the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs convened by the prime minister on Tuesday night.

With key UPA allies -- the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Trinamul Congress and Nationalist Congress Party members -- clearly expressing their resentment to a new state, sources say the Congress is now looking to find a way out of the situation.

While the DMK and the Trinamool Congress opposed the creation of Telangana, NCP's Sharad Pawar was highly critical of the manner in which the entire issue was handled by the government.

Apart from the allies, the meeting was attended by Defence Minister AK Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Law Minister Veerappa Moily.

A statement was issued at the end of the meeting asking the people of Andhra Pradesh to maintain calm and peace and did not go much beyond that, possibly because Parliament is in session. There was a great deal of criticism against Chidambaram for making a statement outside Parliament on initiating the process of creation of Telangana when the House was in session.

It is learnt that the government is considering setting up a committee to look at all aspects of the issue, but sources say it is unlikely to serve the purpose as the battle lines are now clearly drawn and each MP and MLA is fighting his own battle for survival. As was witnessed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday when Congress MP Jagan Mohan Reddy (son of the late Rajasekhara Reddy) walked into the well of the House and joined the TDP MPs seeking an united Andhra Pradesh. Other Congress MPs, too, joined him in the well.

Congress leaders say that their best bet now is to let the statement by P Chidambaram remain and at the same time make it clear that unless the state assembly sends a resolution there can be no question of bifurcation of the state. But state leaders say such a move is not easy.

If the pro-Telangana leaders are ready to have a huge celebration rally in  Hyderabad and a blockade planned in case Centre does not co-operate, the anti-Telangana groups are unwilling to let Hyderabad go of Andhra Pradesh at any cost

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who was expected to address a meeting of the CPP on Thursday, might not do so now, say Congress sources. They say the meeting may be postponed to the last day of the session, December 21.

If that bears some positive result, then only Sonia will speak. Party leaders fear that agitated Andhra Pradesh MPs may use the occasion to push home their  point.

Sources say it is also highly unlikely that she would host a dinner -- a normal practice – this time as no such dinner has so far been scheduled.

The Telangana controversy has also cast a shadow over the upcoming celebrations of the party moving into its 125th year as the mood amongst the senior leaders is far from cheerful.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi