India's ruling Congress party on Tuesday approved a move to carve out the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh as the 29th state of the country, giving in to a five-decade-long demand from supporters in a major decision ahead of 2014 elections.
Officially urging the government to take constitutional steps that will see the state´s formation, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) passed a resolution following a meeting of the constituents of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
The state, which could is likely to take six months to be formed, is expected to have 10 districts, a population of 35.38 million and an area of 1.14 lakh square km and including Andhra Pradesh capital Hyderabad, which serve as a common capital for 10 years.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh supported the formation of the state, saying that it was very much required "for the development of the entire Andhra region".
Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh said the decision was taken following wide consultations.
"Formation of Telangana has not been an easy decision. We have taken this decision after wildest possible consultations," Singh said.
"The Government of India will now refer the issue to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly for an appropriate resolution on it," he said.
"In the meeting, a unanimous decision was taken in favour of forming Telangana," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters after the meeting.
Celebrations broke out in Telangana after the Congress leaders announced the decision that came in spite of threats to resign by Congress leaders from Andhra Pradesh who opposed the move.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), that led much of the movement demanding statehood for the Telangana region, along with Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) and other groups welcomed the move.
TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao, lauded the move but added he would not celebrate till the bill for Telangana was passed.
"We need to be cautious till the bill is passed by parliament in view of our past experience," he said, adding that the party would then also consider merging with the Congress.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj said the UPA government should bring the bill to create a separate state of Telangana in the upcoming Monsoon Session of the Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha said the BJP will support the bill.
"The Government should bring the Bill for creation of separate state of Telangana in the coming session of Parliament," Swaraj tweeted.
"We will support the Bill to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Telangana," the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha posted on her Twitter homepage.
Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongman Narendra Modi on Tuesday called the decision as a ´victory of people´s power´.
"Today we pay our respects to all those who struggled and gave their lives for a new state of Telangana. This is a victory of people´s power," Modi tweeted.
The right wing Hindu nationalist leader said the Congress was not handling the Telangana issue in a ´transparent´ manner.
Meanwhile, Groups seeking a united Andhra Pradesh expressed their doscontentment with the decision and have called for a hutdown has been called in the rest of the state, known as the Seemandhra region on Wednesday.
Congress MP from Guntur, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, and at least two Congress legislators, along with one from the Telugu Desam Party resigned in protest.
Tuesday´s decision is expected to see the Andhra Pradesh, carved out of Madras State in 1953 as the first state to be formed on linguistic basis, become India´s first non-Hindi linguistic state to be divided.
Formed on Nov 1, 1956 with the merger of Telangana - then known as Hyderabad State - with Andhra State, Andhra Pradesh is India´s fourth largest and fifth most populous state, with a population of 84.6 million, spread over 275,000 square km.
The five-decade old call for a separate state for the Telangana region stemmed from a belief amongst local leaders of an injustice to the region inflicted by Anhdra leaders in all sectors and going back on the assurances given at the time of the merger.
Protests have long rocked Andhra Pradesh for a separate Telangana state exerting pressure on the Congress-led 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 local residents, comprises 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 wanted the state of 85 million people to remain unified, and especially opposing the tearing out the IT hub Hyderabad that would affect the state's economy.