Hyderabad: After a gap of five years following the 2014 bifurcation of the state, the Andhra Pradesh government commemorated the AP formation day on 1 November, Friday.
While the event to mark the birth of the state has become contentious between the incumbent chief minister Y.S.R. Jaganmohan Reddy and his predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu — who are also warring over a series of administrative changes that Jagan has introduced during the last five months — a public debate is now raging over the date of AP’s formation.
Notably the view from Rayalaseema region has highlighted regional differences in the state.
The previous AP government — the Naidu regime — had refused to continue the tradition of celebrating the day on 1 November when Andhra and Telangana were merged into one state in 1956. The government’s explanation was that it would be unreasonable as 1 November marks the union of Andhra and Telangana regions, whereas the two are now separated.
In a move that stoked the wounded sentiments of Andhra people already agitated by the split and loss of Hyderabad, Naidu instead organised a protest week every year called Nava Nirmana Deeksha (A resolve to rebuild) from 2 June, the bifurcation date, to 8 June, the date he took oath as CM in 2014.
And his government made it a grand affair with about Rs 15 crore spent annually on various activities to highlight the “injustice” meted out to Andhra Pradesh. The week used to end on with Naidu administering a pledge by public servants, students, etc., committing contribution for the financially weak state’s growth. A finale Mahasankalpam (great initiation oath) used to be held at the Benz Circle in the heart of Vijayawada, blocking the national highway passing through the city.
At the time, YSRCP was critical of the Nava Nirmana Deeksha. Once Jagan came to power earlier this year, he scrapped the June events.
Now, the Jagan administration has made elaborate arrangements for a three-day fest, starting 1 November, to celebrate statehood despite Naidu reportedly questioning the move.
However, the positions of both leaders have received little traction with the people of the state.
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‘Neither 1 November, nor 2 June is correct’
While N. Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Jaganmohan Reddy spar over the two dates, historians, analysts and Andhra culture proponents are opposing both the dates, seeking 1 October as AP formation day, when the Andhra state was formed in 1953.
Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be formed on linguistic basis — carved out of the then Madras state — following the fast unto death of revolutionary Potti Sriramulu in 1952 and the subsequent widespread protests.
However, only three years later, on 1 November 1956, Andhra Pradesh and the Telugu-speaking Telangana of the erstwhile Nizam’s Hyderabad state were merged to form a united Andhra Pradesh. The move came following a “Gentlemen’s agreement” between Andhra and Telangana leaders to safeguard the interests of Telangana people.
“1 November is the day of marriage of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and 2 June is their divorce after about six decades of alliance. But the actual birth of Andhra state was on 1 October,” says Chalasani Srinivas, founding president of Andhra Intellectuals Forum.
“While Naidu was organising the divorce day, Jagan now wants to rejoice the marriage day when in fact there is no point in celebrating the AP statehood on 1 November or 2 June. Naidu was wrong and Jagan’s decision now also seems was advised wrongly. They both represent intellectual bankruptcy in this matter,” says Chalasani.
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The Rayalaseema issue
Revealing the regional differences within the state and the unsettled question of capital location after Y.S.R. Jaganmohan Reddy came to power, the demand to declare 1 October as formation day is more pronounced from the backward Rayalaseema region.
The Andhra state formed on 1 October 1953 came following the 1937 Sribagh pact — an agreement between the leaders of Andhra (corresponding to present day coastal AP) and Rayalaseema regions — during the agitation for a separate Andhra state for Telugu speaking people in Madras state.
The pact was necessitated as the Andhra University, supposed to be set up at Anantapur in Rayalaseema, was established in Visakhapatnam in coastal Andhra region.
According to the pact, Rayalaseema could either choose to have the capital or the High Court for a decentralised structure. Accordingly, Kurnool was the state capital from 1953 to 1956, until the formation of united AP.
“When the state was bifurcated in 2014, the political and geographical structure was practically reversed to 1953 and thereby Rayalaseema should have got back the capital at Kurnool. But Naidu took both the capital and the High Court to Amaravati,” says Yeggoni Jayaraju, a senior advocate from Kurnool.
With the Jagan government indicating a possible restructuring of the government set-up, in favour of a decentralised power structure, the people of Rayalaseema, especially Kurnool, are demanding that the High Court should be set up here.
A temporary HC is operating from Amaravati where it was shifted from Hyderabad in January this year.
At present, an agitation is on in Kurnool demanding special development and location of the AP high court there. Friday marked the 52nd day of a relay hunger strike by advocates demanding the HC.
“Contrary to the Sribagh pact, Rayalaseema always received a raw deal. The capital was abruptly shifted to Hyderabad then, without any avenue to help our area develop. That is why we are now resolute that the High Court should be set up here,” says Yeggoni, convenor of the Kurnool District Bar Association Joint Action Committee agitating for the HC relocation.
“Jagan’s decision to celebrate November 1 as state formation day has no validity and is based on wrong guidance. It should be 1 October,” Yeggoni tells ThePrint, echoing Chalasani views.
Jagan, like most of the chief ministers in the political history of AP, hails from Rayalaseema and is seen to be favouring the region more than Naidu, who is also from there.
Rayalaseema Saaguneeti Saadhana Samiti, a farmer’s body, also wants the capital relocation to Rayalaseema, while also demanding that 1 October should be celebrated as the state formation day.
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