Telangana Demand- Deepening crisis in Telugu politics జనవరి 30, 2008Posted by Telangana Utsav in Articles, Deccan, Medak, Telangana.
Tussle over Telangana
Syed Amin Jafri, Deccan Chronilcle, January 30, 2008
Rumblings in the Congress over separate Telangana statehood continue unabated, giving an impression that these are manifestation of dissidence against the Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, rather than an expression of “pro-Telangana sentiment” prevailing in the backward region.
The Congress Working Committee member and deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Mr G. Venkatswamy, is still in a defiant mood without caring two hoots for party discipline or the order from the high command not to speak on this sensitive issue. He has emerged as the leader of a dozen-odd elected representatives of the party from Telangana including MPs, MLAs and MLCs. This ginger group is stepping up pressure on the party leadership mainly to embarrass Dr Rajasekhar Reddy, who is perceived by them as the stumbling block in the way of Telangana state.
Fully aware of the designs of Telangana protagonists, who have scores to settle with him either due to ego clash or frustration over not getting plum posts, the Chief Minister initially tried to ignore them but later decided to take on them. Several ministers and MLAs close to him have mounted a counter-attack on Mr Venkataswamy’s “brigade”, questioning the locus standi of senior leaders to rake up Telangana issue when they did nothing for separate statehood during their long political careers. Dr Rajasekhar Reddy himself teased these leaders with his controversial remark that it would not be possible for the UPA government to concede to the demand for separate Telangana before the next elections since there was no consensus among the coalition constituents on the issue and that the Congress could take a decision only if it was able to secure a majority and form the government at the Centre on its own.
The central leadership has sought to defuse the situation by placating Telangana protagonists with assurances that the second States’ Reorganisation Commission (SRC) is on the cards to go into separate Telangana demand and that AICC president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, is “very much concerned over the issue” and that she would take an appropriate decision at the appropriate time. However, Mr Venkatswamy and his Telangana cohorts are far from “satisfied” with such homilies. In fact, Mr Venkatswamy has been coming out with a new demand every day. After threatening to quit the Lok Sabha if the high command went ahead with the second SRC, he has sought a CWC meeting to discuss the issue. He now wants the high command to announce the creation of separate Telangana as a “pre-condition” for his retirement from active politics.
Telangana protagonists seem to have misread the signals emanating from the central leadership. Even while ruling out the appointment of the second SRC and de-linking Telangana issue from its purview, the Congress high command has not been forthcoming with a clear-cut commitment for separate state or a time-table for its formation. But the pro-Telangana leaders take the reluctance of Mrs Gandhi to spell out her stand on the issue as a “positive sign” that she favours a separate state. These leaders miss out on two significant points.
The first point is that the party high command is averse to formation of smaller states at this stage, notwithstanding the support for Bundelkhand and Harith Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh and Vidarbha in Maharashtra. So far as the demand for trifurcation of UP is concerned, the Congress is in no hurry to oblige the BSP supremo, Ms Mayawati, or the Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Mr Ajit Singh, owing to the compulsions of prevailing political situation in that state. The Congress would like to counter Ms Mayawati’s offensive against the party and the UPA government by wooing the Samajwadi Party for a joint counter-campaign, if not electoral tie-up, against her.
Secondly, from the Congress viewpoint, Maharashtra and AP are two major states which can make or mar the party’s fortunes to wrest or retain power at the Centre, since both UP and Bihar have slipped out of hands of the party almost two decades ago. AP and Maharashtra together have 90 Lok Sabha seats and even if the Congress gets 45 to 50 seats, this contributes a lot to its kitty. In the present Lok Sabha, the Congress has 43 members, besides 10 NCP MPs and an RPI (A) member as its allies, from these two states. This excludes seven MPs (from Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the CPI and the CPI-M), who had won in alliance with Congress in 2004 elections.
If Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, too, are bifurcated, this may prove to be politically disastrous for the Congress. Both the NCP and the Shiv Sena are opposed to separate Vidarbha, though the BJP and a section of Congress leaders favour such a state. In the event of the NCP quitting the alliance and joining hands with the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the BJP would find themselves at a disadvantage. Also, bifurcation of AP would reduce the capacity of the Congress to garner sizeable number of seats because regional and sub-regional parties may gain upper hand in the bifurcated portions. So, what Dr Reddy says is partly true. The Congress high command may not grant separate Telangana state in the near future, though this may impact the party’s prospects to some extent in Telangana region in the next general elections.
The state government and the Congress leadership believe that smaller states would turn to be happy hunting grounds for Maoists, as has happened in the case of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. With Andhra Pradesh in general and Telangana in particular having a four-decade-long history of Maoist presence, a separate Telangana state, which is openly supported by Maoists, would turn into a Left-wing bastion because the TRS, if it comes to power in the new state, lacks the guts to stand up to Maoist threat. Though Maoists retreated from Telangana heartland in the wake of a sustained campaign against them by Greyhound commandos in recent years, there is the fear that they may regroup in Telangana once the new state comes into being.
Aware of the Congress gameplan on the Telangana issue, the TRS founder, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao, however, hopes that he can revive his party’s fortunes by capitalising on the infighting within the Congress and confusion in the ranks of other parties. He set the deadline of March 6 for the UPA government to initiate steps for the formation of Telangana state. Five weeks ahead of the D-day, he has obtained resignation letters from his party legislators and MPs. The “loyalists” have handed over the letters — addressed to the Lok Sabha/ Assembly Speaker or Legislative Council Chairman — to their party boss for forwarding them to the presiding officers at the “appropriate time”.
Apparently, the TRS boss was worried by the claims of rebel MLAs that at least eight more “loyalist” legislators would revolt against him if pushed to the wall to quit their posts. He also needed to do something sensational to divert the attention from the TRS misadventure to pressurise Congress ministers by gheraoing them and forcing them to declare support for Telangana. Pro-CM leaders in the Congress promptly seized the opportunity when the TRS supporters attacked the cooperation minister, Mr Mohammed Fareeduddin, at Siddipet a few days ago. They organised Medak district bandh even as four ministers took out a big anti-TRS rally in Sangareddy. With the central Congress leadership playing for time, Mr Rao seems to be pushing himself into a corner. Will the Election Commission hold by-elections to the seats vacated by the TRS members in case they really quit their posts just a few months before the general elections?