It’s been a year since Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated to create Telangana and this week, the two states marked the anniversary in contrasting ways — with celebrations in Telangana and studied indifference in Andhra. The parting was painful for AP, which was forced to concede the capital, Hyderabad, to Telangana. Its finances have taken a beating — budget deficits now run into Rs 6,000 crore plus — while Telangana has a small surplus. The bitterness generated by the division has lingered on, impacting state-building in both regions. Both states continue to squabble on how best to divide assets. The transfer of employees has been delayed, crippling the administration. In retrospect, the AP bifurcation is a lesson in how not to reorganise states.
The reorganisation of states in 1956 and 2000 was marked by extensive consultations by the States Reorganisation Committee (SRC). Partisan considerations played a part but a larger consensus prevailed. There were, of course, differences and resentments, for instance, on Bombay’s status, between Maharashtra and Gujarat. The formation of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand in 2000 was relatively uneventful and seemed to reflect a maturing polity.
When the demand for a separate state of Telangana was revived in the last decade, the initial response from the Congress and other parties was to propose a third SRC that could explore the bifurcation of AP and also look at other demands for statehood. A trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh and the possibility of a Vidarbha state would also have been on the discussion table, had the UPA government followed that route. Instead, the Congress gave in to the tug and pull of short-term political compulsions in the state. The Telangana demand was underpinned by a yearning for development and an assertion of sub-regional identity. But competing political interests and the Centre’s ad hoc approach turned the movement into an impassioned mobilisation. The political whirl reduced the Justice Srikrishna panel, set up by the Centre in 2010 to work on the statehood claim, to a mere academic exercise as the two regions rapidly moved apart.
Demands for new states will continue to be made. The main lesson to be drawn from the AP experience is that while forging a political consensus is difficult, it is essential for redrawing maps.