Between its merger with the Telangana region in 1956 and the recent troubles over its bifurcation, the Andhra Pradesh state has struggled with inherent contradictions. It is cruel irony that the first of Indian states created – in 1953 out of the Madras state – to appease linguistic sentiments could not surmount the dialectal, cultural and economic divides between the people of Seemandhra and Telangana. Even geographically, the rocky, barren and forested terrains of Telangana contrasted with the well-irrigated, rice-growing coastal plains of the Andhra region. While the Congress can not escape blame for the ugliness that has marred and scarred the statehood process, the underlying sentiments for Telangana formation were rooted in hard reality. Even as Hyderabad rapidly developed into an information technology hub and spawned ancillary developments in other sectors, it was mostly the elite and middle class families from coastal Andhra, that benefitted. Politically too, three communities — Reddys, Kammas and Kapus — have dominated leaving precious little for other backward communities who are numerically superior in Telangana.
Among the problems that will dog a residual Andhra Pradesh is the sharing of resources. Telangana will become the upper riparian state holding a significant share of the catchment areas of the Krishna and Godavari regions. Over 50 per cent of the state’s revenues of Rs69,000 crore, like Value Added Tax, come from Hyderabad, while the Andhra region accounts for 25 per cent, Telangana 17 per cent and Rayalaseema 8 per cent. While the income tax collections from the state topped Rs30,000 crore, Hyderabad accounted for two-thirds of this. In essence, the long drawn out political slugfest and violent street protests in Seemandhra is about the loss of Hyderabad and the start from scratch facing a residual Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad’s ideal geographical location in terms of climate and the extensive investments already made in IT, pharma, health, education, and real estate has made it an asset worth fighting for.
A flight of capital out of Hyderabad has been happening, and is certain to continue, as coastal Andhra entrepreneurs embrace the possibilities opened up by the requirements of developing a new capital city for a residual Andhra Pradesh. The challenges are as stark in Telangana where most districts are among the most backward in the country and until recently were fertile recruiting grounds for Maoists. Telangana’s ideologues and political practitioners rode a popular wave on the back of strident criticism of the inequalities that have dogged the Andhra Pradesh state. If Telangana becomes a reality at the end of this Parliament session, its votaries will have to prove that the new state — extracted after great human and economic toll — will benefit the indigenous people. The leaders must also ensure that the property, lives and wealth of the Andhra people who have also invested their fare share of sweat into the making of modern Hyderabad is protected and respected.
Many of the old certitudes about linguistic and regional identity could dissolve and precipitate the drawing and redrawing of state boundary lines if the Telangana agitation is an example. Such processes naturally spark tensions and heartburns over the sharing of resources. Despite the recent history of antagonism and suspicion, Telangana and Seemandhra politicians must show the willingness to forget bygones and forge a healthy and conducive working environment when the bifurcation process is completed.