[Appeared in Indian Express on 8th October, 2013; coauthored with Vinod Kumar]
Contrary to the prevailing opinion, in this country, new state formation has never been smooth. Nor were the procedures exactly similar. Each state formation was unique and had followed a different sequence of steps. The only thing common to all the state formations so far in Independent India has been the rigid applicability of Article 3 in its truest sense, where Parliament is given the supreme authority to carve out states irrespective of the opinion of the involved State Assemblies.
While the NDA followed a convenient procedure in the creation of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in 2000, where the state assemblies initiated the demand for separation, such a procedure is neither legally mandated nor is constitutionally prescribed and deviates from most other prior state formations.
Even the original reason for carving out states is different for each state. While some states in India were formed on the basis of recommendations by the States Reorganization Commission (SRC), most others have not been dealt with by the SRC. And in certain cases, states were formed though SRC made explicit negative recommendations, like in case of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Even the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956 did not follow the recommendations of SRC.
And contrary to what Seemandhras believe, Indira Gandhi was not an apostle of preservation of existing states. In fact, history attests that she was a big supporter of creation of new states. No other Prime Minister of this country has carved as many states as Indira Gandhi. She single-handedly led to the creation of many new states--Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura. Back then, there was a strong case for creation of Telangana when the Telangana Praja Samiti (TPS) won 10 Lok Sabha seats in 1971 elections in spite of the popularity wave that Indira Gandhi was riding on at that time.
Leaders of those times confide that Indira Gandhi was almost ready to divide Andhra Pradesh as well in 1972, which actually resonates with her proclivity towards creating new states with utmost ease. Why she opposed the division of Andhra Pradesh, as a special case, seems to have completely different reasons. The then principal secretary of Indira Gandhi PN Haskar made her aware of a pending petition with the United Nations filed by last Nizam Osman Ali Khan against forceful annexation of Hyderabad State by the Indian armed forces.
Haskar advised Indira Gandhi not to broach the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh while the case was still pending. It is to be noted that Indira Gandhi went about creating many states following different sets of steps for each state. When Chief Minister Ram Kishan of Punjab openly opposed and criticized the CWC resolution of March 9, 1966, to bifurcate the state, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended proviso of Article 3 of referring the bill to the State Assembly by imposing President’s rule on July 5, 1966, keeping the State Assembly in suspended animation to go ahead with the formation of Punjab Suba and Haryana Prant, using Parliament’s prerogative in carving internal boundaries of the country.
The President of India, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, stated that there would be no reference of the Reorganization Bill to the State Legislature. The bill was debated at length and passed by the Lok Sabha on August 31, 1966, and by the Rajya Sabha on September 3, 1966. The President’s Rule was revoked on November 1, 1966, when Punjab was bifurcated. This decision to divide the state while under President’s Rule was later upheld in 1970 by the Delhi High Court, thereby establishing the supreme power of Parliament in the creation of new states.
Punjab, like Andhra Pradesh, was covered by Article 371. The passage of bill for reorganization of Punjab automatically removed Punjab from this special provision of Article 371, which will be now applicable during formation of Telangana.
The current insubordination and overt defiance of Andhra Pradesh CM N Kiran Kumar Reddy is uncannily similar to the belligerent stance taken by the Chief Minister of Punjab Ram Kishan in 1966. It would be wise if the current Seemandhra leadership stops its undemocratic and coercive activities aimed at stalling the formation of Telangana. They should realize that bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is inevitable, and therefore, there is a need to cooperate with people of Telangana in separation. Seemandhra leaders should instead focus their energies towards safeguarding the interests of Seemandhra at this critical hour.
If the current belligerence and willful disobedience of Kiran Kumar Reddy is continued, wherein he uses cricket symbolism that “it is not over till the last ball is bowled”, expressing his desire to fight till the end, there is a very strong case for imposing President’s Rule to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh by keeping the State Assembly in suspended animation, thereby obviating the need to refer the bill to State Assembly.
Sonia Gandhi may now have to do what Indira Gandhi did in 1966. We sincerely hope we don’t have to do it that way. Seemandhras can debate their perceived problems and issues in the State Assembly while discussing the draft bill. We need to remember that we can choose our friends but not our neighbors. We hope that we will be friendly neighbors who are going to solve all the issues that may arise in future with maturity and responsibility.