NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: Sending Telangana supporters into a swoon, Union home minister P Chidambaram has distanced himself from his own Dec. 9, 2009 statement promising steps towards a separate state for the region.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha Wednesday, he said the situation has changed “dramatically” since that midnight announcement, and at any rate a consensus among the stakeholder parties was proving elusive.
Responding to Telangana MPs’ prodding to announce a schedule for carving out a separate state, the home minister said, “No home minister can make such statements. The circumstances are well-known. Virtually every party is split on this issue.”
Harking back to the day of his statement which triggered wild hopes of a separate state, Chidambaram said, “I made the statement on Dec. 9, 2009 in Parliament. But the situation changed dramatically within 24 hours,” adding that he made a “revised statement” on Dec. 23, 2009. Reflective of these changed circumstances, he said, all parties that have a stake in the matter, including the Congress, have changed their stand since then.
Chidambaram’s speech in Parliament Wednesday was the nearest he has come to speaking in explicit terms on his Dec. 9 statement. As recently as earlier this week, he had said that a decision would be taken ‘soon.’ But, his latest pronouncement made it clear that the issue continues to be snagged on the lack of consensus, and that the ‘soon’ isn’t coming in a hurry. The home minister insisted that only after the eight parties having a major stake in Telangana take a firm view would some progress be made.
Notably, Chidambaram’s count of the fence-sitters has gone up. Until a few months ago, he had been saying only four parties were still to submit their stances on the issue.
During his speech in Parliament, the home minister was interrupted a couple of times by Telangana MPs, mainly BJP MPs , Nama Nageshwar Rao (TDP) and Asaduddin Owaisi (MIM). While to the latter two, he paraded his ‘soon’ story, he dismissed the BJP as a party with minimal stakes in Telangana. Chidambaram said it was understandable that the eight fence-sitters took their time to render their views for they had major stakes in Telangana. But, the BJP, with “hardly a stake,” had no reason to be in a hurry. “I can’t blame them (the eight fence-sitters) if they take more time. Their stake is greater,” he said.
Chidambaram also cited a precedent, other than himself, of a home minister changing his stance on Telangana dramatically. That about-turn, he said, was made by senior BJP leader L K Advani, who as home minister had written a letter on April 1, 2004 stating there should be no new state of Telangana.