HYDERABAD: Uncertainty prevails over Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao attending the 29th Southern Zonal Council meeting to be chaired by Union home minister Amit Shah in Tirupati on November 14. This meeting was supposed to be held on March 4 this year but was eventually postponed due to the Covid second wave.
Chief Ministers of Telangana state, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, which are the member states, and Lieutenant Governors of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands, which are special invitees, have been invited for the meeting.
Besides around 100 senior officials including chief secretaries, government advisors and heads of various departments were also invited for the meeting, aimed to discuss and resolve the disputes among member states and also issues between the Centre and member states.
Official sources said the Chief Minister had not conveyed his decision so far on whether he would attend the meeting or not.
The Centre holds these meetings once in two years. The meeting could not be held in 2020 due to Covid pandemic. After Chandrashekar Rao became Chief Minister of Telangana in 2014, two such meetings were held in Thiruvanathapuram in 2016 and Bengaluru in 2018 which were chaired by the then Union home minister Rajnath Singh.
Rao skipped both the meetings. In 2016, he deputed then home minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy on his behalf while in 2018 he deputed none as he was busy with Assembly elections.
With Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy issuing a media statement on Wednesday that AP would raise long-pending AP bifurcation issues and Krishna water dispute with Telangana state in the Tirupati meeting, senior Telangana officials feel that Rao’s presence is of utmost importance this time to present Telangana’s arguments effectively.
Jagan has announced to raise the issue of Telangana owing arrears of Rs 6,300 crore to AP Discoms, Telangana civil supplies corporation arrears to AP, Telangana freezing fixed deposits lying in banks and also bifurcation of assets pertaining to common institutions in Hyderabad listed under Schedule IX, X of AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.
Telangana state has been denying owing any arrears to AP and also opposing division of assets in Hyderabad. Jagan also announced to raise the demand of bringing Jurala dam in Telangana under the control of KRMB, which is being opposed by Telangana.
Against this backdrop, officials feel that the presence of the Chief Minister is of utmost importance to counter AP CM’s claims before Centre and member states.
Rao and Jagan last met at Pragathi Bhavan in January 2020. They exhibited unusual bonhomie by meeting over half a dozen times in less than eight months after Jagan became the Chief Minister of AP in May 2019 to hold talks to resolve several contentious issues between both the states post bifurcation of state in 2014. This bonhomie ended after Jagan issued orders in May 2020 to construct Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS) over Krishna diverting Srisailam water.
Soon after, both the states filed cases in courts and tribunals accusing each other of taking up illegal projects on the Krishna. There have been no meeting between the two since then.