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How 29th state was born. And the what-ifs...

Published : Jun 15, 2016, 2:08 am IST
Updated : Jun 15, 2016, 2:08 am IST

Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh, author of Old History, New Geography: Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, claims if TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu had made TRS chief K.

Jairam Ramesh	(Photo: Bunny Smith)
 Jairam Ramesh (Photo: Bunny Smith)
Former Union minister

Jairam Ramesh

, author of Old History, New Geography: Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, claims if TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu had made TRS chief K. Chandrashekar Rao a Cabinet minister in 2000, the 29th state may not have come into existence. In an interview to

Manish Anand

, Ramesh noted how the sudden demise of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy swung the pendulum in favour of Telangana. He also rued that PM Narendra Modi betrayed Andhra by not granting it special category status. Excerpts:

Did the accusations that you had been a Cyril Radcliffe in being instrumental in bifurcating Andhra Pradesh provoke you to write the book so soon after the creation of Telangana All sorts of accusations were hurled at me, that I was (Lord) Mountbatten, Radcliffe (the British lawyer who drew the India-Pakistan boundary line in 1947)... I was doing my job. Of course, in the process, the Congress became extinct in both Telangana as well as Andhra. History has strange ways. But as I said, I’ve no regrets. I tried to be fair, honest and transparent. The bifurcation should not be seen in the context of the Congress’ loss. The fact that the Congress lost doesn’t mean that the decision to create Telangana was wrong.

You claim the sudden death of YSR swung pendulum in favour of the demands for Telangana. Did the Congress err in choosing an elderly K. Rosaiah as his successor I think by and large the death of YSR gave KCR a life. Otherwise, KCR was history as long as YSR was alive. No doubt Rosaiah was senior, experienced and had a clean image. But YSR was YSR. He was a unique character.

You have attempted a historical book, yet refrained from going beyond what transpired at the meetings of the Group of Ministers and the Cabinet. I made it very clear in the beginning that the book is not about the merits of the bifurcation. I was not involved in the decision on bifurcation, which the Congress took. When the Congress (decided) in favour of bifurcation, I was away in Copenhagen for the climate change negotiations. My involvement began from the constitution of the GoM and ends with the passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2013 in the Rajya Sabha. I was not competent to write on the political background. I could not have speculated. I just could not add value to the question “why bifurcation”, but I could add value to the “how” of the bifurcation. The book is about “how”. It’s a book by somebody who looks at the issue from a scholarly point of view. I don’t want to settle scores.

Did the rebellion of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy and his parting ways with the Congress allow the clamour for Telangana to gain strength Jagan rebelled in 2010-11. But remember, his party gave a letter, which was approved by Jagan, to the GoM in support of Telangana. Even YSR on February 12, 2009 had supported the cause of Telangana. But I think had Jagan been in the Congress, things may have been very different. This is one of those historical “ifs”. But the Congress did not send Jagan out, he left. But, see, Jagan’s party, as is the case with the parties of Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar, have the letter “C” (for Congress) as integral to their names.

Your book claims that the December 9, 2009 late-night statement by then home minister P. Chidambaram sealed the case for the creation of Telangana... That statement made at 11.30 pm on December 9 was a decisive turning point, which gave the impression that the Government of India had agreed to the creation of Telangana. Afterwards

Chidambaram, in a series of interventions in Parliament, which are all documented in the book, gave background to the statement, that KCR had been on fast for 10 days and that the situation in Hyderabad had been volatile. In fact, Chidambaram gave a contrary statement 14 days later (on December 23), but, no doubt, his first statement was decisive and the turning point. The home minister could not have made the statement on his own.

Andhra Pradesh had been a bastion of the Congress. But the party seems to have handed over the political turf to three regional outfits. We were destroyed in Andhra Pradesh. It was shocking that the Congress lost heavily in Telangana and the bifurcation proved disastrous for the party. However, that’s being wise after the decision was taken. But before the bifurcation, the Congress managers believed it would give electoral dividends to the party. It should be looked into in the context of socio-economic benefits and not just with the Congress’ loss. Looking back, if N. Chandrababu Naidu had made K.C. Rao a Cabinet minister — he had not even formed the TRS then — in 2000, he may not have formed the TRS. It was the sense of neglect by KCR at the hands of Naidu that he formed the TRS and launched the campaign for Telangana.

Even the NDA government (1998-2004) had created three states — Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. The BJP remains a dominant player in the three states. But the same can’t be said about the Congress in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It’s not good. National parties must have a presence. Look at Tamil Nadu, two regional parties fighting each other.

It will not be good for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh if the TDP, TRS and YSR Congress fight it out. The weakening of national parties is not good. There must be vibrant and viable national parties too.

BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu had brought pressure on the Congress for special category status for Andhra Pradesh, which made then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh give such a commitment on the floor of Parliament. Yes, Dr Manmohan Singh made an intervention in the Rajya Sabha on February 20, 2014 where he committed the government to special category status for Andhra Pradesh for five years. Naidu said when his government comes to power it would be for 10 years. I think Mr Modi betrayed the people of Andhra Pradesh. Although the BJP and TDP are allies, the fact is that the TDP has not gained anything. The Act says the Centre must fund the creation of a new capital, which is not being done. The law is not being implemented in letter and spirit. The book suggests that the GoM was convinced on the proposal to add three districts to Telangana when AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi argued it would keep a check on the growth of the RSS... Yes, that’s true. The GoM was quite unanimous, but the proposal came quite late, and TRS chief K.C. Rao was rabidly against the move. Among all presentations made to the GoM, the one by Owaisi was the best and well researched.