The Central government on Sunday deferred a decision on whether the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh should be carved into a separate state, prompting sharp criticism of the ruling Congress party by Opposition and activists.
The Congress, which rules both the state and the Centre, said that more time was needed for consultations with leaders from the state, extending indefinitely an apparent deadline set by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.
"We need more consultations with senior leaders of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh (coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema). We will invite them to Delhi along with the chief minister and state Congress chief," Congress spokesperson Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
"There is no deadline but the talks will be held as soon as possible," he said, when asked about the Jan 28 deadline Minister Shinde had appeared to set last month when he promised a decision within one month of Dec 28.
Shinde had assured political parties and activists demanding statehood for Telnagana that a decision on the matter would be taken within a month after a meeting called by him did not yield a breakthrough.
"It may take a little more time to reach a final decision," the home minister said in a statement on Sunday.
On Sunday, K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and other pro-Telangana groups held protests in Hyderabad and called the government move a betrayal of their trust.
Pro-Telangana leader K T Rama Rao was arrested on Sunday morning for taking out a protest rally despite their being a ban on rallies at Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad.
Rao said the TRS had decided to join a 36-hour strike and added that the government´s indecisiveness on the issue has been hurting the people of Telangana.
At the Osmania University, a group of student demonstrators pelted stones at the police when they were prevented from taking out a rally towards the Governor´s residence.
Andrah Pradesj Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president G Kishan Reddy called upon people to "see the end" of Congress, while CPI state secretary K Narayana termed the Congress duo´s statements as "suicidal".
Protests have long rocked Andhra Pradesh for a separate Telangana state exerting pressure on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre to expedite the bifurcation of the state, carving out the Telangana region with AP's current capital Hyderabad as its main city.
The Telangana region, which merged with Andhra Pradesh in 1956 against the wishes of many locals, comprises of 10 districts - Adilabad, Hyderabad, Khammam, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Rangareddy, and Warangal.
As the movement to divide the state gained momentum, politicians from coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema regions want the state of 85 million people to remain unified, and especially oppose tearing out the IT-hub city Hyderabad that would affect the state's economy.