Glad that his trip to the city wasn’t marked by any black flags of protest, Congress politician Jairam Ramesh talks about his new book ‘Old history- New Geography-Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh’ at the book launch.
What is Old History- New Geography all about?
‘Well, first I will tell you what it isn’t about. It isn’t on the ‘why’ of bifurcation, but on how the bifurcation happened. It is a chronological journey starting from 1954, the time when Andhra wanted an identity separate from Madras, and chose to merge with Telangana.’
What is your personal opinion on whether the bifurcation was a good thing or not? Could the decision have been averted?
‘It’s an area where there’s a whole lot of grey. And I was just an instrument of that destiny. Also, both sides are unhappy with the decision, so we must have done something right (smiles). It gave me no great pleasure to do what I did, but too many events happened, making the decision an inevitable one. The death of Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, the fast by KCR and the demand by all political parties seeking bifurcation fuelled this fire. Moreover, the Congress paid a heavy price and lost elections in both regions.’
Why wasn’t Hyderabad chosen as the common capital?
‘When the idea was put forth of a common capital like Chandigarh, a team came together to evaluate it. They figured that unlike Chandigarh which was suitably located for the States of Punjab and Haryana, Hyderabad was right in the centre of Telangana. So, it did not seem viable.’
Could you throw light on the Special Category Status (SCS) for Andhra Pradesh post the bifurcation?
‘Dr. Manmohan Singh had said that the SCS would be for five years to which Venkaiah Naidu had revised, asking for ten years. But post the BJP coming into power, nothing has been done to that accord. It’s a question you must ask the current government.’
What, according to you is Andhra’s future and how can we measure it?
‘There are three parameters to be considered to measure development. One: development should be decentralised, and the State should consider whether it has more centres of economic activity than it did in the past. Before the bifurcation, Hyderabad was where the largest share of development was happening, and such is not the case today. The second parameter is to check whether social engineering is really happening in the State with a broad-base of political power. And thirdly, whether natural resources were being used well.’
Your message for the people
‘Andhra Pradesh is a state made of entrepreneurs. In fact, I’ve said this before too. There are entrepreneurs and then there are Andhrapreneurs.’
His closing words were met with appreciation as the crowd applauded and the orator in Jairam Ramesh fielded questions thrown at him. While this line has touched people’s hearts, we all know that though the book may show how bifurcation of a State happened, it will never be able to predict how the State and the lives of those who live in it shape up after that.