The UPA regime may not have taken any decision on Telengana yet,but the high-level meeting convened on Monday by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to consider a merger offer by the KCR-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi may well be a signal that the government could give up its hesitation on creation of new states and agree to bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
At a meeting with senior Congress leader Vyalar Ravi last week,TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao made a categorical offer to merge his party with the Congress if it agreed to create Telengana. Rao was accompanied by his son and senior party leaders but the meeting deliberately avoided any reference to who would head the new state. KCR has publicly stated that his ambition is not the chief ministers chair but creation of Telangana. Sources said the TRS leader even assured that he would not be forming another regional political outfit later.
There was also a second meeting of TRS leaders with Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde,where the latter raised concerns about Naxal threat in a new state. The TRS countered this by saying that similar concerns were floated when Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were created but the two states have been dealing with the problem adeptly.
The TRS offer has given the Congress leg room to manoeuvre,particularly because the rank and file will now be assured that a merger would not relegate them to a B team spot. At the same time,the Congress must know that it probably wouldnt be possible to deny KCR the top post,given that he has been the public face of the Telengana agitation.
The larger allurement for the Congress is that creating Telengana would make the battle for 2014 easier,as it can hope for at least 20 or more seats of the 33 it had won from Andhra Pradesh in 2009. It will also deny the BJP,which has been going all out in support of Telangana,a resonant political slogan in the region.
As observers point out,theres another reason Telangana may see smoother sailing. Pranab Mukherjee,who was among the strongest opponents of creating new states,is no longer in government.