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Telangana botched up డిసెంబర్ 19, 2009

Posted by Telangana Utsav in agitation, Andhra, BCs, Congress, Economy, elections, GHMC, Identity, Kamma, Kapu, KCR, Mulki, politics, PRP, Rayalaseema, Reddy, Sonia, TDP, Telangana, Telugu, TRS, Velama, violence, Y S Jagan, YSR.

Telangana botched up

Neerja Chowdhury
Express News Service: 15 Dec 2009 12:45:17 AM IST

The genesis of the T-trouble that has suddenly erupted in the face of the Congress lies in the vacuum left by the death of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, and the intense power struggle that has ensued in the Congress. The struggle for a separate state of Telangana is not a recent phenomenon. It first surfaced as a peasants movement against landlords in the late Forties and early Fifties. Later it acquired the shape of a demand for a separate state and got new impetus only in the last 10 years.

During this period the Congress graduated from a position of proposing a Second States Reorganisation Commission which the Pranab Mukherjee Committee had made to L K Advani — and which was turned down by the then Union home minister — to a commitment to create a separate state of Telangana.

These promises were contained in the Common Minimum Programme in 2004, in the Congress manifesto and election campaign in 2009. Sonia Gandhi’s words in Secunderabad are cited repeatedly, accepting ‘in principle’ the idea of a separate Telangana. However, YSR, who had resisted a separate state assured the party high command that he would manage the situation at his end. YSR managed to keep Telangana from boiling over through a policy of carrot and stick. He set up a committee on the Telangana issue that was headed by K Rosaiah. He also deliberately picked up ministers from the Telangana region who he felt would be pliant.

As luck would have it — or he managed it — the Telangana Rashtra Samithi did poorly in election after election which pushed the issue off the radar. Frustrated with the non-action by the Congress, with which it had forged an alliance in 2004, the TRS parted ways in 2006 but fared poorly in the bypolls which followed the resignation of his MPs and MLAs two years later.

The TRS came a cropper again in the 2009 general elections winning only two out of the 17 Lok Sabha seats and 10 out of the 119 Assembly seats in the Telangana region. This is not to say that there has not been an under-the-surface feeling in favour of a separate Telangana, given its continuing backwardness compared to coastal Andhra, and the domination of the Reddys and Kammas in the state’s politics since its formation which the OBC leaders chafe against — the Telangana region comprises 60 per cent OBCs. The point is that the ‘T’ sentiment was not dominant enough to become an election issue influencing their outcome in successive polls. Till KCR decided to go on a fast. After his 2009 poll debacle, he had reportedly quipped to friends whether he should shut shop. He had not even mustered up courage to contest the elections last month for the municipal council of Greater Hyderabad.

The timing of the fast was curious and coincided with two other events, though ostensibly unconnected. One was the confirmation of Rosaiah as a full-fledged CM. The second was a CBI enquiry initiated by the Centre against the Reddy brothers for illegal mining operations. The Bellary brothers were closely associated with YSR and with Jagan Mohan Reddy, and it is possible that Jagan began to feel the heat.

Whether it was Jagan’s supporters who stoked the fires both of the Telanganites and later of the Andhraites, so as to embarrass Rosaiah and bring down his government is a matter of conjecture. But Congress leaders are openly making these allegations. They point out that those who had led the signature campaign to make Jagan CM were also the ones who had tendered their resignations. And it was the Congress MLAs from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema who took the lead in resigning, compelling legislators from other parties to follow suit. The draft of the resignation was also the same.

The Congress has been inept in its handling of the situation and failed to anticipate the problems the midnight announcement could throw up. The bandh call by students the next day had pressed panic buttons in Delhi and it was felt that an immediate announcement could take the sting out of an escalating situation which threatened to spin out of control. The deteriorating health of KCR is also cited as a reason but it could not have been a major consideration for he could have been force-fed.

The Congress leadership had made some ground preparations once KCR’s fast was underway — like getting the Andhra Pradesh Cabinet and the Congress Legislature Party to authorise the party high command to take a decision on Telangana, and instructing the CM to hold an all-party meet. All parties, except the CPI (M) and MIM, had promised their support for Telangana and wanted the Congress to bring such a resolution in the state assembly (but took a U turn two days later).

Congress leaders were in touch with KCR, eliciting a promise that he would break his fast the moment they made the announcement — which is what he did. He is also believed to have assured them that if Telangana was formed, TRS would merge with the Congress.

Where the Congress failed was to anticipate that the (former) empire of YSR would strike back. That while Jagan may have overtly accepted the high command’s decision to install Rosaiah as CM, neither he nor his mentor K V P Ramachandra Rao were reconciled to it. They had the backing of the economically and politically powerful in the state. YSR had been given a free hand in the selection of tickets in the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, and the MLAs continue to be loyal to his son.

The high command also failed to anticipate the rash of demands the grant of Telangana would unleash in the rest of the country, suddenly making the creation of small states an all-India issue. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha got into the act within hours. So did Mayawati who is making a case for the division of UP into three units.

It is all very well for Pranab Mukherjee to say that Telangana does not mean that other regions are about to get statehood. But the manner in which the announcement was made, under obvious pressure, has sent a message that the government will relent only under pressure. This may spawn a new kind of street politics in the weeks to come.

The Congress bosses calculated that they would sweep in Telangana and keep power in the remaining parts of Andhra, given the reality of the Reddy versus Kamma line-up and Kamma versus Kapu fight. Now the party finds it can neither backtrack on its promise of Telangana and at stake here is the very authority of the government of India, nor can it go ahead with it, given the violence and threatened resignations of 20 ministers.

Postponing the decision could lead to loss of support in both regions. The Congress has really shot itself in the foot in a state which brought it to power at the Centre in 2004 and helped to retain it in 2009.


About the author:
Neerja Chowdhury is political editor, The New Indian Express



1. Telangana botched up « Telangana Utsav Committee | Telugu News Station - డిసెంబర్ 19, 2009

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