Meeting a nearly five-decade-old demand of the people of Telangana, the UPA Tuesday decided to accord separate statehood to the backward region by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. This will create two states for Telugu-speaking people.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coordination committee in New Delhi approved the creation of a separate Telangana state.
"All parties unanimously decided in favour of Telangana," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said after the meeting held at the prime minister's official residence.
It was attended by leaders of constituent parties like the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, National Conference and Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal.
The UPA coordination committee meeting was being followed by a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's highest decision-making body, which is expected to take the final decision about carving out Telangana.
Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju had indicated earlier that the Congress leadership was inclined towards taking a decision in favour of a separate Telangana state.
The announcement ended a chapter in the history of Andhra Pradesh, which was formed on Nov 1, 1956 with the merger of Telangana (then known as Hyderabad State) with Andhra State.
Andhra Pradesh will become India's first linguistic state to be divided. Carved out of then Madras State in 1953, it was the first state formed on a linguistic basis.
Andhra Pradesh was India's fifth most populous state, with a population of 84.6 million. Spread over 275,000 square km, it ranked fourth among Indian states in terms of geographical area.
Telangana will have a population of 35.38 million and an area of 1.14 lakh square km.
Telangana, which comprises 10 districts, including Hyderabad, was part of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad and has a distinct culture. Its leaders had accused rulers from Andhra for doing injustice to the region in all sectors and going back on the assurances given at the time of the merger.
Tuesday's decision brought down the curtains on the controversial and violent movement for separate state. During the 'Jai Telangana' movement in 1969, over 300 people, mostly students, were killed in police firing.
With this, the central government has fulfilled its Dec 9, 2009 announcement to initiate the process for forming Telangana state. The statement followed an 11-day hunger strike by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao and massive protests in the region.
However, the counter-protests in Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and Andhra) and mass resignations of MPs and state legislators forced the central government to make another statement Dec 23, 2009, putting the process on hold, citing the need for a consensus.
The five-member Srikrishna Committee constituted by the central government in 2010, suggested five options, making a choice difficult for the UPA government.
TRS and other parties fighting for Telangana state kept up the pressure on the government through organising strikes, road and rail blockades, million-march and march to the state assembly.
The delay in taking a decision was hurting the Congress party in the region as it was losing its legislators and cadre to TRS. The resignations of two Congress MPs and senior leader K. Keshava Rao in June put further pressure on the party.
It then decided to solve the contentious issue once and for all to clear the uncertainty before next year's parliamentary elections.
The region sends 17 MPs to the Lok Sabha. It also accounts for 117 seats in the 294-member Andhra Pradesh assembly.
Hectic activity began Tuesday morning as leaders from both Seemandhra and Telangana rushed to the national capital. Union ministers and MPs from Seemandhra along with state ministers from the two regions went into a huddle to work out a strategy in a last-ditch effort to stop the state's division.
Telangana leaders, who held a separate meeting, exuded confidence that the Congress party would fulfill the long cherished dream of people of the region. Union minister D. Purandeswari and MP L. Rajagopal called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, his deputy Damodar Rajanarasimha and state Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana, who rushed to the national capital on being summoned by the leadership, held meetings with party general secretary and state in-charge Digvijaya Singh and other central leaders.