Rise of subaltern Telangana : beyond by-elections ఆగస్ట్ 4, 2010Posted by Telangana Utsav in agitation, BCs, Congress, elections, heritage, Hyderabad, Identity, JAC, movement, Mulki, Poetry & Songs, politics, regionalism, SC, Sonia, ST, students, Telangana, youth.
Tags: Srikrishna, V Anil Kumar
A tectonic shift in Telangana
V Anil Kumar, August 04 2010, The Indian Express
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has decisively won 11 out of the 12 seats in the recent by-elections in Telangana. The president of the Pradesh Congress Committee, D. Srinivas, was defeated by the BJP candidate in Nizamabad (Urban). TRS leader Harish Rao won his seat with a resounding majority, even surpassing the record of former chief minister Y.S.R. Reddy. Many non-TRS contestants have lost their deposits. In short, it has been made abundantly clear that the people of Telangana want Telangana state.
This seems like an obvious point, and it must be remembered that the TRS has won previous elections like this and also lost badly, subsequently. But these by-elections are significant both for Telangana and for the Indian polity. While earlier, the TRS has won elections and squandered its political goodwill in no time, this time the movement is qualitatively different.
For one, there is a Srikrishna Committee watching the developments; secondly, the movement has moved beyond electoral politics and become a social movement with its own inexorable logic. This time, people voted for Telangana and defeated the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party and others that also championed the same cause. And this is not because of “sentiment”, as glibly assumed — the reasons lie elsewhere.
There is no dearth of writing on Telangana that depicts the movement as a product of “regional backwardness”. This argument assumes that providing an economic fix will solve everything. However, parts of Telangana are highly developed. Almost all of Telangana is, for that matter, economically, socially and politically better developed than the northern coastal districts of Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam. Warangal district has a National Institute of Technology, a medical college and other higher education institutions of repute. Telangana has a rich heritage, and what’s more, Hyderabad is the heart of Telangana. Therefore, this “economic package” argument is at least partially wrong.
The real story is that of rural backwardness and relative inequality, when compared to the coastal and Rayalaseema districts. The latter benefited from colonial rule and accompanying advances in modernity, irrigation projects, etc. Inequality is always a relative term; and the genuine argument often heard is that Telangana has always been relatively ill-treated by post-Independence dispensations, even the people are fully aware that they deserve a better deal in economic and political terms.
Therefore, Telangana has taken on a clear social dimension. Telangana people do not want to be told that they, their language, their accent and culture are in any sense inferior to that of coastal Andhra Pradesh. At their peak in 2009, the Telangana protests were expressed in folksy, popular forms, while the coastal Andhra-dominated form of popular Telugu cinema, technically sophisticated as it is, was perceived as humiliating the Telangana language, culture and people. This was one of the causes of Telangana grievance, and now this protest is being expressed by ordinary, subaltern Telangana people. The movement has grown deep social roots, and now it is up to the TRS to live up to it.
The reassertion of Telangana in the by-election has a significant lesson for the Indian polity, and these are not just about small-state-versus-big-state debates. One, grassroots movements can emerge to force the political system to take note of their grievances and in the case of Telangana, despite the efforts of the joint action committee efforts, the movement and the voting patterns are largely spontaneous. The Telangana that is now emerging is a subaltern Telangana, of the lower castes and lay people. And they will not listen to platitudes any more. And they are now reclaiming the public sphere.
The writer is assistant professor at the Centre for Political Institutions, Governance and Development, at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore