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Why Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are squabbling about a plot of land in Central Delhi

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GS Radhakrishna

The AP Bhavan complex in the national capital is the latest bone of contention between the two states.

The latest flashpoint in the tussle between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is a plot of land in Delhi – the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan complex, which both states share.

Ever since Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the two states have constantly clashed over the sharing of resources, including water, electricity and land.

Last Thursday, Telangana Chief Secretary SP Singh and Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary SP Tucker bickered about the complex again while speaking to the Centre during a video conference, inviting Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi’s displeasure. “Why are the sibling states bitterly quarreling over petty issues?” he reportedly asked. “Such issues should be amicably settled over a table.”

The AP Bhavan complex on Ashoka Road in Central Delhi houses the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, Telangana State Bhavan and Telangana Haj House. The Telangana government claims ownership of the entire 18.18-acre plot as its ownership can be traced back to the princely state of Hyderabad. Andhra Pradesh, however, says the land should be divided between the two based on their respective populations, as per the AP Reorganisation Act 2014, which laid down the terms for the bifurcation of the state.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao triggered a controversy last year when he declaring that Andhra Pradesh had no legal claim over the land. In a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on June 23, KCR, as the chief minister is widely known, claimed that the “historical perspective denotes that the entire land presently in the possession of AP Bhavan belonged to the erstwhile state of Hyderabad under Nizams and hence it should be transferred to the government of Telangana”.

During last week’s video conference too, the Telangana chief secretary said that the question of population-based apportioning of resources would arise only if the land had been bought with the funds of the government of undivided Andhra Pradesh, after the state was formed in 1956. The Delhi plot, Telangana argues, had been bought by the Nizam in 1948, before Hyderabad state merged with the Indian Union.

“If AP wants a share in AP Bhavan, then we may seek our share in the sea ports, buildings and assets located in the successor AP state as they were bought with funds of the combined AP,” said a senior Telangana government official.

Iconic structure

The tussle over the AP Bhavan land actually has its roots a few kilometres away, in Hyderabad House, a stately and majestic building designed in the Neo-Mughal style, facing India Gate in the heart of Delhi. Hyderabad House was built in 1929 by the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Pasha, who would stay and entertain British officials here during his frequent visits to Delhi.

The building, designed by Edwin Lutyens, cost 200,000 pounds and is spread over 9.2 acres with 36 rooms, massive banquet halls, gardens, servants’ quarters and a dining table that can seat more than 500 guests. The other dining halls can accommodate over 2,000 guests.

After the Nizam’s Hyderabad state was merged with the Indian Union, ownership of most of his assets were given to the state. But Hyderabad House, now under the care of the Ministry of External Affairs, was bought by the Centre in early 1993 after years of negotiations with the Andhra Pradesh government . When negotiations began in the 1980s, then Chief Minister T Anjaiah had even made a note on “the state had agreed to sell it under duress”.

In addition to the cash component, the AP Bhavan complex in New Delhi was given to Andhra Pradesh as compensation for Hyderabad House.

After the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti government took over Telangana, it moved to reclaim all the Nizam’s properties in Mumbai, Delhi, Aurangabad and Nanded. “Hyderabad House was built as a guest house and not a convention hall,” Telangana Home Minister Nayini Narasimha Reddy told Scroll.in, adding that it should be handed back to the state.

Fighting tooth and nail

Two-and-a-half years after the bifurcation, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are still fighting bitterly over assets and liabilities. Assets that fall in the undivided state have been divided between the two states based on location – those that are within the borders of Telangana went to that state, while those that fall in Seemandhra went to Andhra Pradesh. But assets located outside the undivided state, according to the AP Reorganisation Act, were to be distributed between the states basis the ratio of their populations. There are nearly 200 such entities.

Mohammed Ali Shabbir of the Congress, the leader of Opposition in Telangana’s Legislative Council, told Scroll.in: “The fight over AP Bhavan land is just a tip of the iceberg.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own

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