With the approval of the Congress Working Committee for creation of a new state of Telangana,the Congress has ended more than a decade of incertitude in taking that reluctant step towards redrawing Indias internal boundaries.
For a party that has always believed in the dominance of the Centre and the postulate that more and more states weakens this doctrine,this indeed amounts to retracing its steps. The last that the Congress party had actually done so was in the mid-80s when Mizoram,Arunachal Pradesh and Goa were created with the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi giving up the Centres hold on them as centrally administered regions.
When the Telangana demand became shriller after the creation of Uttarakhand,Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000 and pressure built up from within the partys state unit,the Congress took the familiar route of setting up a committee to look into the issue of creation of smaller states. Headed by Pranab Mukherjee,a hardliner who was against splitting of more states,the committee finally proposed setting up of a second States Reorganisation Commission an adroit political response to keep the ranks satisfied without giving away anything.
Since then,the Congress has shuffled around,even prevaricated on the issue of creating the new state of Telangana. Congress leaders have contended that the Mukherjee sub committee had said there were valid reasons for creating Telangana and had even proposed setting up the SRC to the Vajpayee government.
The Congress,however,failed to take any step in this regard even after it came to power in 2004,forcing the Telangana Rashtra Samiti to walk out of the UPA in 2006. It only helped them to reason that the position of the Left,which lent critical support to the government,was opposed to any such venture on ground that it would open a Pandoras box.
The Congress dithering would have continued had it not been for a few significant reasons. The first is the exit of Pranab Mukherjee from the decision-making hierarchy in the party. His elevation as President led to absence of strongest opposition in the Congress core group. The second was Finance Minister P Chidambarams strong conviction favouring smaller states for better administration in core group meetings.
The third is the entry of Rahul Gandhi into the decision-making body,who obviously did not carry the preconceived baggage of party veterans.
The fourth,of course,was the impending political reality in coming Lok Sabha elections where the Congress was certain to be wiped out in Andhra Pradesh if it failed to take that call on Telangana.
Swaraj is a senior assitant editor based in Delhi
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