The Indian union cabinet has cleared the controversial formation of a new state – Telangana – after bifurcating the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The decision came after a bout of uncertainty and flip-flop by the government over the contours of the new state.
The cabinet approved on Thursday night the bill that will facilitate the creation of Telangana, the country’s 29th state.
The move by the Congress-led federal government comes amid much opposition from regional parties – the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam.
In Andhra Pradesh, the announcement was greeted with protest from the two parties which have called for a general closure, or bandh, on Friday.
Sushilkumar Shinde, India’s home minister, dismissed the earlier proposal of having 12 districts in the new state and calling it Rayala-Telangana to reflect the two regions that would comprise it. On Thursday, he claimed that such a proposal was never under consideration.
Telangana was originally envisaged with 10 districts. Earlier this week, a group of central ministers proposed addition of two more districts.
This has been shelved and the new state will go with the original 10 districts.
Apparently, the change in the original contours of the new state led to differences among union ministers.
In addition, the new proposal was criticised strongly by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which spearheaded the movement for Telangana.
There were also several dissenting Congress ministers at the local level. These factors forced the federal government to stick to the original proposal, reports said.
The Telangana bill will be sent to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee who will then forward it to the Andhra Pradesh state assembly for its views, reports quoting Shinde said.
Among the most contentious aspects of the new state is the status of the capital Hyderabad which falls in the Telangana region.
Much of the protests against the new state is also over Hyderabad.
To assuage the opposition, the government announced that the greater Hyderabad area would serve as common capital for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for 10 years.
Politicians in the rump Andhra Pradesh state reacted angrily to Thursday’s Indian cabinet decision.
Calling for a general closure, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, chief of the YSR Congress party, said the decision had been taken solely for the purpose of votes and seats.
It has not taken into consideration the views of a majority which did not want the state split, reports quoted him as saying.