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Higher office aspiration behind Telangana

Hyderabad: It is the "demand for greater political space" and the "aspiration for higher offices" that has actually fuelled the craving for creation of a separate Telangana state, which is showing "rapid development" along most parameters.

This is one of the significant findings of the five-member Justice Srikrishna Committee that studied the situation in Andhra Pradesh for over 11 months.

"Telangana as a region, notwithstanding some genuine grievances, is showing rapid development along most parameters. The regional sentiment for a separate state should thus be seen as a demand for greater political space, power and a stronger say in the affairs of the region and of the state," the Srikrishna Committee observed in the chapter on "Sociological and Cultural Issues" in its report made public on Thursday.

"As the political space has expanded at various levels of governance, the aspiration for higher offices has grown. At a pragmatic level, a new state can often provide the fastest route to high political offices," the Committee noted.

Stating that Telangana groups have alleged "discrimination" in access to political power in the state, the Committee referred to their argument that several agreements and promises, including the `Gentlemen`s Agreement` signed during the formation of Andhra Pradesh, were not adhered to.

"Coastal Andhra had the maximum Chief Ministers (10) while CMs from Rayalaseema ruled the longest (23 years 9 months). Together, the Seema-Andhra region held the position of CM for 42 years while Telangana held it for only 10.5 years. Thus, the combined domination of the Seema-Andhra region is apparent," the Committee pointed out.

Telangana region has certainly had a much shorter span of holding the position of Chief Minister which remains the all-powerful position in Indian states and this could be redressed to remove the sense of political alienation, it said.

Referring to the post of Deputy Chief Minister, which was also part of the Gentlemen`s Agreement, the Srikrishna Committee said, "Of a total of 16.5 years for which there was a Deputy CM in AP, the position was held for roughly 8 years by both sides.

"This is again a violation of the agreement as with the longer period of post of CM being held by Seema-Andhra side, there should have been concomitantly a longer period as Deputy CMs for the Telangana side."

However, the Telangana side cannot claim total lack of representation as it held the key Home, Finance, Revenue and Irrigation portfolios for fairly long periods, the Committee said.

"The Telangana protagonists argue that ministers from the region have been `weak and been `easily co-opted` by the more powerful representatives from the `other side`.

"Hence, a separate state would separate them from these powerful representatives (from Seema-Andhra), allowing strong and independent leadership to emerge in Telangana," the Committee said.

Analysing the background of elected representatives, MPs and MLAs, the Committee noted that majority of political representatives from Seema-Andhra belonged to political-cum- business class while there was no such pattern in Telangana.

"An analysis of MPs elected in the 2009 election shows that compared to 92 per cent of Seema-Andhra MPs, only 35 per cent of those from Telangana had a political or business family background. Among the MLAs elected, while 63 per cent of the Seema-Andhra winners had a political family background, only 20 per cent of those from the Telangana region had such a background," the Committee said.

The Committee maintained that a separate state, however, might not necessarily assure guaranteed and automatic access to water, government jobs and education, as claimed and promised by Telangana leaders.

It felt that the issue of sentiment has to be considered only as "one among several factors" to be evaluated.

"The field of development studies shows us that there is no magic formula for rapidly reducing socio-economic disparities which prevail within both large and small political units or within cultural regions; the redressing of such disparities is through a process of local struggles, state policy responses and many fortuitous circumstances, it summed up.

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