Bid to Partition Indian State Leads to Political Paralysis New York Times ArticleMahesh Kumar/Associated Press
Police arrested Lagadapati Rajagopal, a ruling party lawmaker from Vijayawada who was preparing to begin a high-profile hunger strike to protest the splitting of the state, in Hyderabad on Monday.
By JIM YARDLEY
Published: December 14, 2009
NEW DELHI — The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh sank into a contentious political paralysis on Monday as local lawmakers adjourned indefinitely without addressing a controversial resolution to divide the state.
Elsewhere in India, demands for statehood have intensified in several regions as the issue has mushroomed into a nationwide political tempest for the governing Congress Party.
In Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, the State Assembly adjourned Monday morning after shouting broke out and supporters of maintaining a unified state began waving banners.
The authorities moved to prevent potential confrontation in the streets after hundreds of pro-unity protesters were blocked from entering the capital city on Sunday and placed in police custody. Officers also denied permission for their leader, a lawmaker, to enter Hyderabad and start a hunger strike.
For the Congress Party, inundated with criticism of its handling of the situation, the turmoil began this month. A regional politician, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, staged a 10-day hunger strike demanding that the Congress Party fulfill a past commitment to pursue statehood for the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Thousands of pro-Telangana students demonstrated as Mr. Rao’s health began to deteriorate.
Late last Wednesday, India’s home minister announced that the central government would initiate the legislative process of creating a Telangana State. Mr. Rao ended his fast.
The Telangana statehood movement has existed for decades. Advocates say the region is deprived of equitable shares of resources, jobs, educational opportunities and other benefits.
But the government’s decision spurred a backlash in other regions of Andhra Pradesh that has steadily escalated. Indian news outlets reported over the weekend that protesters set two railroad stations on fire. Meanwhile, 130 members of the State Assembly tendered their resignations, though none have yet been accepted. Many of the resignations were from members of the Congress Party, threatening its majority status in the state government. News reports also suggested that as many as 90 people had started their own hunger strikes to prevent partition.
At some point, the Assembly is supposed to vote on a resolution for Telangana statehood. Though the central government can create a new state under its own authority, the process had been expected to begin at the state level.
Dharmana Prasada Rao, the state’s revenue minister, said Andhra Pradesh was now sharply polarized: Residents of Telangana want statehood while most people elsewhere oppose any division.
“We hope the central government will resolve the issue,” he said, adding that despite the controversy, the government was functioning. “The issue is very sentimental and serious for the people. It has long-term consequences for both sides.”
Late Monday, a Congress Party spokesman told the Indian news media that the central government would take no action on the issue until the Assembly in Andhra Pradesh passed a resolution calling for Telangana statehood. The Telangana situation has revived other statehood movements, even as the country’s powerful finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, has warned that only Telangana is on the table.
In the most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Mayawati has sent letters to the national government requesting that three new states be carved out of her state as well as a portion of the adjacent state of Madhya Pradesh. Her critics immediately accused her of opportunism and of trying to undermine the Congress Party to elevate her own Bahujan Samaj Party.
Farther east, in the state of West Bengal, advocates promoting a separate state for the Gorkhaland region have also been agitating. Advocates began a general strike in the region on Monday, and hunger strike campaigns are also under way.
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.