Hyderabad as common capital: Under what proviso?
Hyderabad: On July 30, 2013, the CWC made the much-awaited and historic announcement to create Telangana with 10 districts including Hyderabad district.
But then there was another announcement that the city of Hyderabad would be the common capital for the two states of Telangana and Seemandhra for a period of 10 years. It seems as if New Delhi has not thought through the implication of this statement. It is easier said than done.
It is not the prerogative of Parliament to decide the capital city of a state. It is for each state to decide its capital within its territory. According to the Telangana people, Hyderabad can, at best, serve as a “transit” capital for Seemandhra for a brief period during which Seemandhra people start moving to their new capital city.
However, the Union government, coming under pressure following the Samaikyandhra agitations and from Seemandhra leaders, is considering various options to dilute the powers of Telangana to accommodate sharing of Hyderabad on a long-term basis to assuage the imaginary fears of the Seemandhra people. So, what are the possible options that are available in the Indian Constitution and historical precedents to make a common capital out of Hyderabad?
Division of powers between the Union government and state government is clearly defined in the Indian Constitution, which is now applicable to 28 states of India. Article 258A allows the Governor of a state to entrust some of the state functions to the Central government, but only upon the recommendation of the state government.
This mechanism was introduced in the Indian Constitution through the Seventh Amendment in 1956 when it was discovered that while the state government can assume some of the powers of the Union government, the reverse was not possible till then.
This was mainly intended to facilitate the execution of certain development projects and was never used by the Union government to arrogate to itself essential state powers like law and order, administration or revenue.
For Article 258A to be used, the newly-formed state of Telangana has to decide whether it wants to hand over law and order or any other state power over Hyderabad to the Union government. The model of New Delhi is also being proposed. But this example does not apply to Hyderabad.
New Delhi started out as a Union Territory and continues to remain so while certain evolution mechanism towards statehood through the 69th Amendment in 1991 has conferred state-like powers providing it with a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers.
Here, the Union government introduced two new Articles, 239AA and 239AB, to grant state-like administrative powers to New Delhi, while retaining the powers over law and order, land and revenue in the State List for itself.
Some analysts have suggested a proposal for Hyderabad along the lines of Article 371H as in the case of Arunachal Pradesh where the governor of the state is given the special responsibility of maintaining law and order in the entire state. It should be noted that Arunachal Pradesh is a special case with a unique geopolitical situation.
Rejecting the Simla Convention of 1914, China lays claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh refusing to recognise the McMahon Line. Arunachal Pradesh, along with Aksai Chin, has been the bone of contention between India and China that led to the Sino-Indian War of 1962. During the war, China invaded and occupied Tawang, an important town in Arunachal Pradesh but withdrew a month later.
The Chinese have recently created a controversy when they started issuing stapled visas instead of regular stamped visas to sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh to establish the notion that it does not recognise the state to be part of India.
As recently as 2006, the Chinese Ambassador to India asserted that whole of Arunachal Pradesh belonged to China. Arunachal Pradesh, unlike other states in India, is a strategic and protected area with special security provisions where even an Indian citizen has to take a special permit to visit the state.
There is no reason or rationale for treating Hyderabad or Telangana like Arunachal Pradesh. Hyderabad is neither a disputed territory nor is there a fear of external aggression from another country.
Since there are lakhs of Seemandhra people living all over Telangana and not specifically confined to Hyderabad, the bogey of insecurity to Seemandhra people living only in Hyderabad is nothing but a mischievous tactic to protect the ill-gotten property and fraudulent real estate transactions of a select few Seemandhra plutocrats in the city.
Using the unfounded fears of Seemandhra people living in Hyderabad to hand over law and order to the Union government sets a bad precedent and should be rejected.
The Odiyas faced the ire and anger of Bengalis in Kolkata, Biharis are sometimes attacked by locals in Mumbai and recently people from the Northeast received threatening messages in Bangalore.
Metropolitan cities tend to draw many migrating sections, which sometimes lead to tension, but it has always been the duty of the state to protect various groups within its territory.If every such incident is used as an opportunity to hand over law and order to the Union government, eventually all major cities will be under the President of India.
It is becoming clear that any attempt to give special status to Hyderabad city to convert it into a common capital is turning out to be an administrative tangle and legal nightmare. The formation of other states have many lessons for us.
The city of Bombay was given exclusively to Maharashtra though Gujaratis asked for a joint capital. Madras was given to Tamil Nadu though Andhra had staked claim to the city.
And in the case of Chandigarh, New Delhi went against the conventional wisdom, converted it into a Union Territory to serve as joint capital for the two new successor states of Punjab and Haryana for a period of 10 years.
The accord signed between Rajiv Gandhi and Longowal promised to transfer Chandigarh to Punjab on January 26, 1986, but did not deliver on it.The transfer of Chandigarh remains a highly contentious issue that remains unresolved till today.
Since the CWC resolution has ruled out the model of Union Territory for Hyderabad, and since 258A or similar proviso like Article 371H cannot be applied to the state of Telangana, New Delhi should desist from imposing a newly-created legal mechanism to force a shared-capital status on Hyderabad that deviates from existing and prescribed constitutional precedents. Already every petition against the formation of Telangana citing problems with Article 3 or Article 371D have been dismissed at the time of admission itself by the Supreme Court.
It would be prudent if New Delhi created a solution for Telangana that adhered to the legal and constitutional sanctity. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest solution. And that is the creation of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital while Seemandhra chooses its own capital city with immediate effect. Like in the case of Shillong, Hyderabad can act as a temporary capital for Seemandhra for a few years based on “goodwill” without any legal or administrative imposition on Telangana.
B. Vinod Kumar, Ex-MP, is politburo member of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.