[Coauthored with B. Vinod Kumar. Published in Deccan Chronicle on 29th November 2013, and Andhra Jyothi on 22nd November 2013.]
On 30th July 2013, CWC made the much-awaited and historic announcement to create Telangana with ten districts that includes Hyderabad district. But then there was also another announcement that the city of Hyderabad will be the common-capital for the two successor states of Telangana and Seemandhra for a period of ten years. It looks like New Delhi has not thought through the implication of this statement. It is easier said than done.
It is not the prerogative of the Parliament to decide the capital city for a state. It is for each State to decide its capital city within its territory. According to Telangana people, Hyderabad can at the best serve as ‘transit’ capital for Seemandhra for a brief period during which Seemandhras start moving out to their new capital city. However, the Union Government coming under the pressure from Samaikyandhra agitations and Seemandhra leaders is considering various options to dilute the powers of Telangana to accommodate sharing of Hyderabad on a long term basis to assuage the imaginary fears of Seemandhra people.So, what are the possible options that are available from Indian Constitution and historical precedents to make a common-capital out of Hyderabad?
Division of powers between the Union Government and State Government is clearly defined in the Indian Constitution which is now applicable to 28 states of India. Article 258 A allows the Governor of a State to entrust some of the State functions to the Central Government, but only upon the recommendation of the State Government. This mechanism was introduced into Indian Constitution through Seventh Amendment in 1956 when it was discovered that while State Government can assume some of the powers of the Union Government, the reverse was not possible till then. This was mainly intended to facilitate the execution of certain development projects and was never used by the Union Government to arrogate to itself the essential State powers like law & order, administration or revenue. To use Article 258 A, the newly formed state of Telangana has to decide whether they want to hand over law & order or any other State power over Hyderabad to the Union Government.
The model of New Delhi is also being proposed. But this example does not apply to Hyderabad. New Delhi started out as Union Territory and continues to remain so, while certain evolution mechanism towards statehood through 69th Amendment in 1991 has conferred state-like powers, providing it with a Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers. Here, the Union Government introduced two new articles 239AA and 239AB to grant state-like administrative powers to New Delhi, while retaining the powers over law & order, land and revenue in the State List for itself.
Some analysts have suggested a proposal for Hyderabad along the Article 371 H as in the case of Arunachal Pradesh where the Governor of the State is given the special responsibility of maintaining law and order in the entire state. It should be noted that Arunachal Pradesh is a special case with unique geopolitical situation. Rejecting the Simla Convention of 1914, China lays claim to whole of Arunachal Pradesh refusing to recognize the McMahon Line. Arunachal Pradesh, along with Aksai Chin, has been the bone of contention between India and China that led to the Sino-Indian War of 1962. During the war, China invaded and occupied Tawang, an important town in Arunachal Pradesh but withdrew a month later. The Chinese have recently created a controversy when they started to issue stapled visas instead of regular stamped visas to the sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh to establish the notion that it does not recognize the state to be part of India. As recently as 2006, the Chinese Ambassador to India asserted that whole of Arunachal Pradesh belonged to China. Arunachal Pradesh, unlike other states in India, is a strategic and protected area with special security provisions where even an Indian citizen has to take a special permit to visit the state.
There is no reason or rationale for treating Hyderabad or Telangana similar to that of Arunachal Pradesh. Hyderabad is neither a disputed territory nor is there a fear of external aggression from another country.
Since there are lakhs of Seemandhra people living in entire Telangana and not specifically confined to Hyderabad, the bogey of insecurity to Seemandhra people living only in Hyderabad is nothing but a mischievous tactic to protect the ill-gotten property and fraudulent real estate transactions of selected few Seemandhra plutocrats in that city. Using the unfounded fears of Seemandhras living in Hyderabad to hand over law & order to the Union Government sets a bad precedent, and should be rejected. The Oriyas faced the ire and anger of Bengalis in Calcutta, the Biharis are sometimes attacked by the locals in Mumbai, and recently the Northeast people received threatening messages in Bangalore. Metropolitan cities tend to draw many migrating sections and sometimes could lead to tensions, but it has always been the duty of the State to protect various groups within its territory. If every such incident is used as an opportunity to hand over law & order to the Union Government, eventually all major cities will be under the President of India.
It is becoming clear that any attempt to give special status to Hyderabad city to convert it into a common-capital is turning out to be an administrative tangle and legal nightmare. The other state formations have many lessons for us. City of Bombay was given exclusively to Maharashtra though Gujarathis asked for a joint-capital. City of Madras was given to Tamil Nadu though Andhra staked claim to the city. And in case of City of Chandigarh, New Delhi went against the conventional wisdom converted it into Union Territory to serve as joint capital for the two new successor states of Punjab and Haryana for a period of ten years. The Accord signed between Rajiv Gandhi and Longowal promised to transfer Chandigarh to Punjab on 26th January 1986 but did not deliver on it. The transfer of Chandigarh remains a highly contentious issue that remains unresolved till today.
And since the CWC resolution has ruled out the model of Union Territory for Hyderabad, and since 258 A or Article 371 H cannot be applied to the state of Telangana, New Delhi should desist from imposing a newly created legal mechanism to force a shared-capital status on Hyderabad that deviates from the existing and prescribed constitutional precedents. Already every petition against formation of Telangana citing problems with Article 3 or Article 371 (D) have been dismissed at the time of admission itself by the Supreme Court. It is prudent if New Delhi creates a solution for Telangana that adheres to the legal and constitutional sanctity.
Sometimes the best solution is the simple solution. And that is the creation of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital while Seemandhra chooses its own capital city with immediate effect. Like in case of Shillong, Hyderabad can act as a temporary capital for Seemandhra for few years based on the ‘goodwill’ without any legal or administrative imposition on Telangana.