When they were united on November 1, 1956 on the basis of a shared language, both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh regions were bitter. After 60 years of an unhappy coexistence, they finally parted ways with equal rancour on June 2, 2014. “It was a one-sided wedding and divorce that had bred bitterness garnished with regionalism,” said the Telugu political columnist Pasam Jagannadham Naidu.
Three years later, both Telugu states are staring at a complicated future with several unresolved disputes. According to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014, there is no scope for debate and arbitration on these disputes beyond June 1 (Thursday) this year as the president, through Governor ESL Narasimhan, will no longer be the deciding authority in such cases. Section 108 of the Act reads:
“If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the president may, by order do anything not inconsistent with such provisions which appears to him to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of removing the difficulty: provided that no such order shall be made after the expiry of a period of three years from the appointed day.”
What will happen after June 1 is that the Union Home Ministry, through a panel of officials, will take the president’s place and act as an arbitrator in cases of dispute (of which there are many). AK Singh, an additional secretary in the ministry, has been appointed the nodal officer and has been tasked with coordinating with Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and the concerned Central ministries for speedy implementation of the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
A team of officers led by Singh visited Hyderabad – the shared capital till 2024 – on March 20 and held discussions with the chief secretaries of both states to resolve pending matters. “AK Singh’s team is going through all aspects of the Act and also the activity on the ground in detail and has also set up a special cell to hear grievances,” confirmed an official in the Telangana chief secretary’s office.
Days later, Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar wrote to the Union home secretary on Saturday requesting that Section 108 be made applicable for two more years until 2019, as there are still disputes to be settled between the two states.
“You are also aware that a number of issues are still to be implemented/resolved under the AP Reorganisation Act,” Kumar wrote. “These issues relate to the irrigation sector, employee service matters, apportionment of assets and liabilities in public undertakings, increase in number of seats in the state Assembly, among others. Since the power of the president to remove the difficulties during the implementation of the Act would come to an end on June 1, 2017, and in the circumstances stated above, it is requested to extend the operation of provisions of Section 108 for a further two years.”
The request comes at time of heightened tension between the ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh and the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Telangana, with the Bharatiya Janata Party caught in the middle. BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Telangana last week may have complicated matters further with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi alleging that it had exposed the BJP’s partisan approach and whipped up concern that after June 1, it would be advantage Andhra. “Now BJP is clearly seen as a friend of Andhra Pradesh and not Telangana,” said political analyst Kappara Prasada Rao.
But the Telugu Desam Party, too, is wary of the BJP. Cracks have appeared in the alliance between the two parties with Telugu Desam Party cadre unhappy with their BJP counterparts, who have already started their campaign for the 2019 general election, for stating that the BJP will come to power in the state. Political analysts said Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu would like to leave nothing to chance and would not like to be in a position to plead with the BJP for assets or for anything else. Hence, the letter to the home ministry.
What remains unresolved
Three years since the split, the sharing of government employees and power resources on a pro-rata basis of population in the ratio of 52% for Andhra Pradesh and 48% for Telangana have been carried out in accordance with the Act. However, the sharing of river water, institutions, assets and liabilities, and the distribution and division of the High Court – all very contentious and emotive subjects – remain unresolved.
“The issue of division of other assets nourished over two generations depended entirely on the element of compromise and camaraderie by both states and would take years for a permanent solution,” said senior Indian Administrative Service officer CR Kamalanathan in his final report on the division of the state’s human resources, which was submitted last year.
Even after three meetings with both heads of state and officials, the governor has managed to resolve the division of only nine of the 142 institutions that fall under the ninth and tenth schedules of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act. Though the sharing of electricity supply has been settled, Telangana continues to protest over its share from the Sileru hydel power station in Visakhapatnam. “[The] Centre has done outright injustice in sharing of Sileru power with Telangana,” Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao reiterated last week at a press meet.
A water war also appears to be a permanent fallout of the bifurcation as both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana depend on the Godavari and Krishna rivers for water. While the Andhra government has gone ahead with its Pattiseema and Polavaram projects (diverting the waters of the Godavari to the Krishna) despite Telangana’s objections, the latter has re-engineered and re-designed projects on the two rivers that when completed would reportedly put Andhra farmers in distress.
Then there is the matter of the High Court. Telangana’s lawyers, who had played a pivotal role in the protests demanding the creation of a new state, have expressed concern over the inordinate delay in the division of the High Court. Both the Union Law Ministry and the chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court have categorically stated that no two High Courts can function at the same geographical location. So, Telangana’s demand for a High Court of its own will have to wait till the Andhra Pradesh government builds its High Court building in its new capital, Amaravati.
For now, the Congress’ “historical blunder” of 1956 – the unhappy union of Andhra state (carved out of Telugu-speaking regions of Madras state) and Telangana (Hyderabad state) to form a united Andhra Pradesh – seems to have been corrected with the bifurcation in 2014. But the scars of separation still simmer.