After a four-month lull, the movement for statehood to the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh is set to enter a crucial phase with the major players, hopeful of achieving their goal, gearing up to pressurise the central government.
The Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), which spearheads the statehood movement, plans to block roads and rail lines and call for a general strike in the coming days.
“Eventually if nothing works, we will call for a million people to march to Hyderabad. It is evident that we can achieve our goal only through agitation and the centre will take a final decision only on the strength of our agitation,” JAC convenor M. Kodandaram told.
The JAC, which comprises the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other groups, has planned massive protests for the next couple of months.
This will start with pressurising MPs and state legislators of the ruling Congress and the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to quit.
JAC’s deadline for public representatives of the two major parties to resign ended June 25.
But the death of Telangana ideologue K. Jayashankar last week and the condolence meetings forced the apex body to delay its protest programmes.
“They may not have resigned but eventually they will realize that the time has come for them to take a decision,” said Kodanadaram, who has asked people not to let MPs, ministers and legislators to visit the villages till they resign for the sake of a separate state.
Kodandaram said he would not like to call it a “final battle” for Telangana but a crucial battle. “I am hopeful that we will achieve our goal this time.”
The attacks on two Congress MPs and a state minister last week during the funeral of Jayashankar in Warngal and the attempts almost every day to stop convoys of others in the region for their failure to resign indicate the shape of things in the coming days.
Congress leaders from Telangana are in a dilemma. While a section of MPs and legislators want to resign, others feel it will not help in achieving their goal.
“We will not hesitate to resign if it helps in achieving a separate state,” said Ponnam Prabhakar, MP from Karimnagar.
The Congress leaders in Telangana also plan to mount pressure on their central leadership by undertaking a fast from July 5. The deadline set by them for the leadership to make a clear-cut statement ends June 30.
With the leadership giving no hints of an early decision on their demand for tabling a bill in the coming session of parliament, the public representatives of the Congress are under intense pressure from the JAC to take a hard decision.
Even their recent visit to New Delhi and meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress core committee members and their threats to resign failed to have any impact.
The TDP is also facing the Telangana heat. It has virtually split into two camps with the suspension of senior leader N. Janardhan Reddy for carrying on the movement without the TDP flag and for criticizing N. Chandrababu Naidu.
Janardhan Reddy, a former minister, and three legislators supporting him have come closer to the JAC, which is targeting the group loyal to Naidu.
Janardhan Reddy’s proposed two-day fast July 3 and 4 in Hyderabad is expected to rally pro-Telangana groups on one platform and become a launch pad for the renewed movement.
To counter the pro-Telangana lobby, Congress leaders from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions have decided to visit New Delhi July 5 to urge the party leadership not to take any step to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.
TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao, whose 11-day fast forced New Delhi to announce Dec 9, 2009, that the process of formation of Telangana state will be initiated, has warned that if the central government delays the process further, the movement will take a violent turn.
More than 300 people were killed in police firings during massive protests in 1969, across the Telangana region, which comprises 10 districts including Hyderabad.
Rao, who revived the movement by floating TRS a decade ago, brought the issue back into focus in 2009 following the death of then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash.
However, street protests and mass resignations of Congress and TDP legislators in the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions forced the centre to backtrack.
The five-member Srikrishna committee, which submitted its report in December, has suggested six options but strongly favoured maintaining the status quo.
The Telangana groups rejected the report and now want the centre to table a bill in parliament to fulfil the promise made in 2009.