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Politics of Telangana Sentiment జూన్ 12, 2008

Posted by Telangana Utsav in elections, politics, Telangana.

Making sense of Telangana sentiment

By K Naresh Kumar



The struggle for a separate state of Telangana is entering its fifth decade next year even as the entire state waits to see whether it will become a reality or not.  From the first ever agitation in 1969 demanding a separate status, the issue of Telangana has remained a mere punching bag in the hands of politicians over this period, who have exploited its emotional value and abandoned it when it suited them no more.


Surprise upsets apart, the May 29 by-elections in four Parliament and 17 Assembly constituencies seeking a popular mandate for Telangana has come out with quite a few remarkable trends. For one of the contenders to the throne in the yet-to-be formed state- the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) – this was its only reason to remain politically alive since its inception eight years ago.


The public, fatigued by too many elections thrust on them and also not too convinced anymore by the ‘abilities’ of TRS turned their backs on them. Almost. But suddenly with this verdict of theirs, the people of Telangana have wrenched the mantle of separate statehood from TRS and enabled the issue to attain a broad based status and to be treated as an issue by other political parties too, as one with potential.


Especially, the surprise winners – the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party – have now started talking that TRS may have been rejected but the Telangana sentiment is very much alive. While rumours abound that the battered TRS may seek a bail-out and shake hands with the Congress all over again, it remains to be seen whether the Congress decides to end this issue of creating Telangana once and for all and time it strategically for the forthcoming year’s Assembly election.


To understand the recently held elections and its interesting outcome, I have based this report on the news coverages of the May 29 by elections made by various Hyderabad based leading newspapers between May 1 and June 1, 2008the day the results were declared. To keep the report current, the later developments too have been selectively included. The attempt here is not only to showcase the petty politicking of our leaders but also the ambiguity and confusion with which the media organisations bamboozle the public at large.


Though the subject would be hot till the 2009 elections, the attempt was to try and find out how the battle for Telangana unfolded this time around and whether there were any indications of a likely upset or anything contrary to it. The media may have been always wrong with their opinion polls and exit polls. I just wished this time they would be somewhere close to being accurate.


My findings make me remember the famous adage – success has many fathers, failure has none.  


Especially, if one sees the gushing coverage the Congress has got after the election results. Every reporter wants it to be known that the party was focused; the leaders were working harder and the strategy of countering separatism with development worked. Especially the much amusing comment of Home Minister, K Jana Reddy, in Dr YSR’s cabinet – ‘by-elections are like Kargil war and the Telangana sentiment is like a thick fog through which they have to wade’. Battle of the bullet, what?


The Telugu Desam Party, delighted by its unexpected success too was complimented well and its leader N Chandrababu Naidu getting more than his due share of editorial space.


To be fair, despite critically analytical reports on the winnability factor of TRS, the English press was by and large liberal in their assessments about the party’s chances and also guesstimating much in the former’s favour.


A few reports, published last month surprisingly came dangerously close to predicting the reduction of TRS seats, constituency –wise. Still, nothing that is being reported now was even vaguely attempted a month ago.


The ‘blackmail politics’ that KCR is being accused of today was reported differently then. Newspapers were full of stories about the surveys the Telangana party had initiated and how it will win comfortably, the  ‘now or never’ cascading impact of the NRI supporters from both the USA and Gulf regions, not to speak of the academic staff of universities and student bodies etc. The tacit link with Maoists too got enough space.


Invoking the Bathukamma sentiment, distribution of audio CDs and books to extol the virtues of the party, bulk SMS to voters were all the tools adopted by TRS and patronizingly covered by the media. Not even a hint of the over-confidence or complacency that KCR is being accused of!!


Tucked away amongst the breathless coverage, was a news item, which said that the NCP officially recognises the need for a separate Telangana, and its leader Sharad Pawar endorses it. The BJP, hard-selling its image of having delivered two states in the 21st Century, too was given its due on the issue of a separate state.


Surprisingly, the minority factor too was ignored by TRS and if news reports are to be believed, the Muslims were unclear about the advantages of a separate state and had hence decided to go with the Congress. This, coupled with the lack of support from the OBCs seemed to have done in KCR, if the post-mortem reports are to be believed.


There has been enough political drama from TRS and its leaders in the past two weeks. Still, Indian politics is a very strange game. There may be unexpected re-alignments in the run-up to the next polls a year from now and the sentiment of a separate state may after all be the USP of the mainstream parties. Single-track approach and lack of political maturity has taken heavy toll of KCR group. They are under pressure to save their identity in the Assembly. This is because the dissident group has more strength than theirs.





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