The tale of the wrangling chief ministers has started to resemble the script of a Telugu potboiler, except that there is little for the audience, the people of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, to cheer about. With the sting operation involving a TDP MLA and the TRS-sponsored Anglo-Indian nominee in the Telangana assembly in a cash-for-vote scandal last week now creeping up to the doorstep of Andhra CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP is spoiling for a fight. The party has claimed that the tape broadcast by a TV channel linked to the TRS, which is allegedly a telephone conversation involving Naidu, is doctored. It has accused the Telangana government of illegally tapping the Andhra CM’s telephone. TDP cadres have filed nearly 50 cases across Andhra against Telangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao and others for violating the Telegraph Act. On Tuesday, the Andhra assembly passed a resolution asking the Centre to place Hyderabad, the joint capital of both states, under governor’s rule.
The current flare-up is part of the legacy of bitterness that marked the bifurcation of Andhra a year ago. Both states had fought for Hyderabad, the cash-rich capital of united Andhra Pradesh and, eventually, the two ruling parties had to reconcile with the city being a joint capital for 10 years. Neither has made its peace with the decision. Inflammatory statements by politicians had resulted in large-scale violence earlier. But barring the occasional sparring by the chief ministers, both governments had seemed to settle down to reorganising and rebuilding the administration since. The current controversy threatens to undo the limited gains of the past few months. Naidu and KCR, seasoned administrators both, should know that the region’s economy cannot afford another round of violence. They must rein in their cadres.
The two states share language, history, rivers and a long boundary. There are unfinished issues involving the transfer of employees, division of assets and sharing of water resources. But they also have unrealised mutually complementary potential. If Andhra could leverage its long coastline and fertile river deltas, Telangana could develop its mineral-rich hinterland and benefit from the economic prowess of Hyderabad. It may help if the two governments shift their gaze from Hyderabad and attend to the needs of the underdeveloped hinterland. The fixation with the capital city — Naidu’s plan to build a city that rivals Hyderabad in Amaravati is an expensive proposition — may lead to a neglect of smaller towns and villages. Both sides need to realise that political drama, howsoever riveting, may not always distract attention from poor governance.