The Congress may be pulling out all stops to create Telangana state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, but the Telangana Rashtra Samiti remains noncommittal on its promise to merge with the ruling party. If it doesn’t, it will be a dampener for the Congress, for which a merger could mean a sweep of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana.
While TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao, who met Sonia Gandhi last week to discuss the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, has been silent on this, TRS national affairs committee chairman Keshava Rao said that the party would take any call only after the new state becomes a reality. Rao, however, appeared to put a caveat, saying there were several issues that the TRS has been raising but which have not been addressed in the proposed bill and thus have to be sorted out first.
“It is true that three years ago we said we are ready to merge with the Congress if it makes Telangana a reality,” Keshava Rao told The Indian Express. “But a thousand people have died since. Anyway, it is too premature for me to say anything on this (merger) now. People must accept it. Let Telangana come and we will look at it with all fairness and seriousness.”
Asked about reports that the merger could hinge on the Congress’s acceptance of KCR as chief minister, he said, “Where is this question? There are some basic issues: services, education, water, land and revenue, law and order. The bill hasn’t addressed them. Let them (Congress) take cognizance of these and do something about them. We will consider it (merger) seriously.”
According to the TRS, about a lakh posts that belonged to Telangana were “occupied” by people from other regions. “Please vacate our posts. The bill wants us to pay the pension of those who illegally occupied them and retired. Let it be paid by Andhra. Then we wanted that Bachawat committee report be implemented in letter and spirit. What they propose is to provide for a board that will have chief ministers of two states and union ministers. Why this?” said Keshava Rao.
The TRS also has strong reservations about a provision to give special law-and-order powers to the governor in the joint capital territory of Hyderabad. “It is nothing but governor’s rule in a particular area. We wanted an inter-state committee to advise us on law and order for the said period. Then we wanted a separate high court. They are proposing that it should be common until the residuary state develops its own. What if it takes one year? What happens to all the cases? Of 46 judges, there are only 11 from Telangana,” said Keshava Rao.
TRS sources said that while KCR is undecided about the merger, he is under pressure from party colleagues to chart out a separate course given the party’s sway in Telangana state. A majority of TRS leaders are, however, said to be of the view that the party could explore the option of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress. Sources said that the party may not be inclined to go for a pre-poll alliance with the BJP, which is expected to go in for an alliance with the TDP that has been opposed to Telangana state.