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A historic opportunity

The future should not be held hostage to the past. Telangana, India’s 29th State, comes into being today after a long and bitter struggle that was marked by much avoidable pain and suffering. But rather than dwell on the issues of the past, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have the opportunity to work out their future as neighbours held together by a sense of shared political and cultural history. True, in sharp contrast to the celebratory mood in Telangana, the people on the other side of the new dividing line remain wary of the immediate and lasting consequences of the bifurcation. However, the occasion of the birth of Telangana must serve as an opportunity to tackle the outstanding issues between the two States within the framework provided by the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. Hyderabad will remain a joint capital for ten years, a period long enough to allow for reinvestment and resettlement. Allocation of employees, management of water resources and sharing of power are contentious subjects, but these can be settled through the available mechanisms. As K. Chandrasekhar Rao takes charge as Chief Minister of the new State, and N. Chandrababu Naidu as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, the challenges might seem overwhelming. But if they keep the long-term interests of their people in mind, and not their own short-term political calculations, many of the seemingly insurmountable difficulties could disappear. The two sides might have taken hardline positions during their campaign and immediately after the election, but once in power they will hopefully find some meeting ground.
Andhra Pradesh was one State where the Lok Sabha election was dominated by a ‘local’ issue: the bifurcation of the State. Political parties that until the previous general election could boast of support across the regions found themselves relegated to one or the other of the two regions — Telangana and Seemandhra. Parties were defined by their stand on the bifurcation issue, and invariably this would have an impact on how the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Telugu Desam Party will formulate their policies on subjects that have relevance to any Telangana-Andhra Pradesh dispute. But not more than one election can be won on the basis of the bifurcation issue, and both parties must realise the importance of addressing the larger livelihood and security concerns of the people. There is little political purchase to be had in raising disputes between the two States as emotive issues that brook no compromise. Both Mr. Rao and Mr. Naidu will serve their States well if they adopt, as suggested by Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, a consultative process in dispute resolution. The time for political rhetoric is now past.

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