Hyderabad: When newly-elected Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy first visited K. Chandrasekhar Rao in Hyderabad last year, to invite the Telangana chief minister for his oath-taking ceremony, he was received with a warm hug and wishes for the future.
KCR attended the oath-taking on 30 May last year, and Jagan hosted a lunch for him at his residence after the ceremony. The late lunch reportedly caused both Telugu chief ministers to miss Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi that same evening.
This bonhomie between KCR and Jagan continued and what followed in the next year-and-a-half were multiple phone calls, lunches and ‘amicable’ meetings to discuss issues related to the states’ bifurcation. They met at least five times and were also all praise for each other in public.
In the past few months, however, there is little evidence of their ‘friendly’ relationship, which is now marked with silences and fairly evident cracks. The two chief ministers last met on 13 January this year.
“The new found love is fizzling out slowly. The relationship is not moving forward, not helping them to resolve issues. And this is not a friendship that emerged on a personal front, it is evident, it was purely a political friendship,” a political expert from Telangana, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
Last week, after the deluge in Hyderabad due to flash floods, there was no phone call between the two chief ministers on the situation, unlike previous instances.
“It looks like they are not even on talking terms. Tamil Nadu and Delhi have expressed solidarity after floods in Hyderabad, but not a call from Jagan to KCR, considering they used to personally call each other earlier,” said Suresh Alapati, a senior political analyst.
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The water-sharing dispute
One of the major reasons for this is the Godavari and Krishna water-sharing dispute between the two states.
Both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been aggressively pursuing irrigation projects on the two rivers to serve their respective states.
The central government had appointed a Krishna River Management Board (KRMB), a Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) and an Apex Council to solve inter-state water-sharing disputes under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. However, the friction between the two states has only increased.
In a meeting of the Apex Council on 5 October, under the aegis of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, both KCR and Jagan were reportedly up in arms against each other.
While Andhra Pradesh wanted clear jurisdiction of both the river boards to allow it to effectively exercise its power, the Telangana government opposed the move. The latter claimed that Andhra Pradesh was encroaching on their jurisdiction through their proposal.
Another bone of contention discussed at the meeting was the upgrade of the Pothireddypadu head regulator canal system and other projects under the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme in Andhra Pradesh.
The Telangana government claimed that the projects were illegal and also filed a complaint with the Krishna River Management Board, alleging that they violated the reorganisation Act. According to the Act, both state governments are required to get the approval of the Apex Council before taking up any new projects on the Godavari and Krishna rivers.
The KCR-led government also threatened to construct a barrage on the Krishna river if Andhra Pradesh went ahead with its proposed projects.
In response, the Andhra government also accused Telangana of constructing new projects, such as Palamuru Rangareddy and Dindi Irrigation Schemes etc, without proper approval.
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Inter-state bus stand-off
Aside from the water-sharing dispute, the two states are also engaged in a standoff on allowing inter-state buses to ply in their respective regions.
The state road transport undertakings, Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) and Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), have been at a stalemate since June over the distance a state bus can travel in the other state, as well as route permits and timings.
Currently, the APSRTC operates its buses on a 2.65 lakh-km stretch in Telangana while TSRTC buses cover 1.6 lakh km in Andhra Pradesh.
After Andhra’s bifurcation in 2014, the bus services between the two states were operating without an inter-state agreement, based on ad hoc provisions under Clause 72(1) of the reorganisation Act. According to this clause, the existing permits at the time of Telangana’s formation were valid until their expiry date.
“For any state buses to ply in other state’s territory, they would require ‘permits’ from that particular state. Usually, an agreement is made between the states as to how many kilometres can the other state buses run and a lot of factors are taken into consideration,” former TSRTC managing director M.V. Krishna Rao told ThePrint.
Now, with most bus permits from both states expiring, the respective governments launched a discussion on the number of kilometres they will allow Andhra buses to travel in their state.
Telangana objected to Andhra operating comparatively more buses in their state. The APSRTC negotiated asking Telangana to increase the kilometres it operated inside AP — which would be a task considering Telangana has fewer buses than 10,000.
Both corporations are now at an impasse after at least five rounds of discussion, which have been going on since June.
In these discussions, the TSRTC had asked the APSRTC to reduce the kilometres it operated in Telangana and also take permits for a limited number of buses on each route.
“It’s all about ‘parity of routes’ and generating equal revenue. Telangana to AP buses are around 750 while APSRTC runs 1,009 buses in Telangana. So we asked them to scale down their operations to our size. Besides, geographically, Hyderabad is totally part of Telangana, so why should more number of Andhra buses run here? Do they operate the same number of routes in all neighbouring states?” TSRTC chief manager Muni Shekar told ThePrint.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also aggravated the situation after both states halted inter-state travel during the lockdown. While Andhra Pradesh has resumed these services, Telangana is yet to do so.
“The demand by Telangana Corp is very baseless and it is very indecent behaviour. We agreed to scale down our operations and reduce kilometres range but there is still no update from them. We wanted buses to ply in Hyderabad because thousands come to their native villages in Andhra during the festival time (Dussehra) and they did not agree to that either,” a top official from APSRTC told ThePrint, on the condition of anonymity.
According to the official, at least 20,000 people travel between the two states every day during Dussehra, which is one of the biggest festivals in the Telugu-speaking belt.
At a press conference Saturday, Andhra Pradesh Transport Minister Perni Venkataramaiah (Perni Nani) requested residents of Telangana to travel till the Telangana-Andhra Pradesh border since the state buses could only travel that distance.
“We have requested (Telangana Corporation) that they allow us to run at least a few buses during the festival time but they refused, they said no plying without an agreement. We agreed to most of their demands and are open to negotiations. I am hoping and requesting the T. Corp to resolve this issue soon,” Venkataramaiah had said.
In an interview to a regional channel Friday, the minister also said despite offering to pay double the tax for routes, Telangana’s transport corporation has still not agreed to resume inter-state bus services.
His Telangana counterpart Puvvada Ajay Kumar, however, said the Andhra transport corporation was showing “double standards”.
“If you’re ready to cut down on routes, then we are ready for an agreement. I am in my office, the Andhra minister can come here and we can agree for a permanent contract, not these temporary ones. We can sign it immediately…they (APSRTC) are showing double standards,” Kumar told a regional channel in an interview Friday.
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From foes to friends and back to foes
Jagan and KCR’s erstwhile bonhomie was relatively new. Prior to this, they were old foes but what united them was their common agenda to take down Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu.
“It’s like an enemy’s enemy is a friend. For KCR, Naidu could any day potentially gather support from the backward class community in Telangana, and for Jagan, the aim is to make sure that Naidu’s party, the TDP, should never rise in Andhra. And this common enmity, bonded them,” said Suresh Alapati.
The rivalry between KCR and Jagan dates back to pre-bifurcation times when the latter opposed the separation of states and also sat on a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in February 2014.
KCR also did not share a good relationship with Jagan’s late father, former chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. YSR was strongly against the proposed bifurcation and stalled any decision on Telangana, till his death in September 2009.
After his father’s death, Jagan conducted a massive walkathon to visit homes of families, where people allegedly died because they were unable to bear YSR’s loss. He was shown red flags by KCR’s party Telugu Rashtra Samithi (TRS) when he tried to enter the Telangana region.
His tour in the Warangal district had, reportedly, led to violence between the YSR Congress Party and TRS workers.
However, after defeating common enemy Naidu in their respective state elections, both leaders decided to bury the hatchet.
Their ‘friendly’ political relationship gave hope to officials that several issues that had cropped up after the bifurcation could be easily resolved.
But looking at recent events, it is evident that this relationship has now hit a roadblock.
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River water disputes should be resolved by all states by
Sharing water on the basis of Sikh Gurus teachings:
Wund Ke Shakko.
This applies to all ripparion states in India.
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