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India Creates a New State Ahead of Elections


The Indian cabinet on Thursday gave the green light to the creation of Telangana, a new state to be carved out of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. According to the WSJ, Hyderabad, the current capital of Andhra Pradesh, will function as a joint capital for one decade while the country hammers out the specifics of the split. But what’s most interesting about this move is the timing:

The ruling Congress party agreed to split Andhra Pradesh state in July after deferring the controversial decision for years and despite strident opposition from those wanting the state to remain intact. Political analysts say the Congress party is seeking to score political points from voters in Telangana ahead of national elections due by the end of next May in which some predict the party will struggle to remain in power. Public-opinion surveys project the party will cede dozens of parliamentary seats to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and others in the election.

The ruling coalition says it is only responding to demands for a new state that have persisted for decades. Supporters of statehood in Telangana say they suffer from high levels of poverty and unemployment because they have been neglected by the Andhra Pradesh government. They also assert they have not been granted their fair share of state spending on irrigation and other infrastructure.

While the idea of a new state has been floated for months, the timing of the cabinet approval reflects opportunistic political calculation by the ruling Congress party. By green lighting Telangana so close to May’s elections next year, Congress is looking to gain whatever votes it can in a state where it stands to lose dozens of seats to the Modi-led BJP.

While forming new states is not uncommon to Indian politics, the timing of this decision will only further the instability in other separatist movements in India, including Assam and West Bengal in the restive northeast, both of which have seen bloody ethnic riots recently. In the run up to the election, both BJP and Congress seem to be putting votes ahead of stability.

[Charimar in Hyderabad photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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