The Telangana agitation has been going on for the past few months. The Centre has refused to take a clear stand. Don’t you think this hurts the Andhra Pradesh economy?
Assocham has just released a report saying that Andhra Pradesh has suffered a loss of Rs 10,000 crore due to the ongoing agitation. We need to break the impasse. You can’t procrastinate on this issue for long. The Centre must take some steps to resolve the issue immediately.
Do you think that the onus now lies on the Centre?
The decision of creating a new state lies with the Centre. The problem is that this demand will have a domino effect across the country. Now, people will demand Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand, etc. This will give impetus to such demands. If Telangana is created, politically the only benefactor will be the BJP, and to a certain extent, my party (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen). The TDP has lost plenty of ground in Telangana. If a new state is created, the TDP voter will never vote for the Congress and the TRS will not have the same relevance as it has now. This political vacuum will be filled by the BJP. Telangana supporters say I’m wrong because Muslims constitute 14 percent of the population. My contention is the same as in Karnataka where Muslims constitute 16 percent of the population. As long as Ramakrishna Hegde and JH Patel were alive, the BJP was not a force. But now you have the BJP in power not as a national party but as a regional one.
A lot seems to hinge on who will get Hyderabad when the state is divided. Hyderabad is also a place where many Muslims live. What is your stand?
As far as our party’s stand is concerned, we are opposed to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. If it still has to be bifurcated, then Rayalaseema Telangana should be formed with Hyderabad as its capital. The most important point is that Telangana has been the hinterland of Hyderabad for more than 400 years. Telangana as a state can’t survive even for three days without Hyderabad.
Why should Rayalaseema be added to Telangana?
Because the most underdeveloped areas in the state are Telangana and Rayalaseema. And secondly, to ensure that water disputes don’t arise. In Andhra Pradesh, there are two major rivers: Godavari and Krishna. Krishna flows through Rayalaseema, Telangana and Andhra. Godavari touches Coastal Andhra and Telangana. The bone of contention is not Hyderabad, it is the division of water. Andhra Pradesh already has problems with its neighbouring states over water. So division of water will be a great mess.
Some Muslim leaders from other parties have now started supporting the Telangana movement. Why are you against the creation of a separate state?
In united Andhra Pradesh, there is no way the BJP can get power. However, a separate Telanagana will provide the most fertile ground for the BJP to grow.
The minority leaders claim that the development of Muslims was never in sync with the rest of Hyderabad.
If you take the Sachar Committee report, it says Andhra Pradesh is the only state where Muslim representation in government jobs mirrors their population. Muslims form 9 percent of the population and have 8 percent representation in government jobs. That does not mean I’m happy or satisfied. The Sachar Committee report shows that Muslims are as backward or more backward than Dalits. If creation of a new state is the criterion to overcome underdevelopment then what should be the demand of the 14 crore Muslims who fall below the poverty line?
Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.