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Samaikyandhra or Telangana as India’s 29th State: K Naresh Kumar ఫిబ్రవరి 13, 2011

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Power Politics, February 2011

United Andhra Pradesh Or Telangana As India’s 29th State?

From the first wave of intense political agitations of 1969-71, when the Telangana Praja Samithi unleashed the ‘Jai Telangana’ movement, the fight for carving out a separate state has never been so intense as in the last 15 months. Unlike the abject political compromise of the strugglers over four decades ago, this time around, the battle is still being fought on various platforms. The support base is strong, seemingly unyielding and the polarization between the pro and anti groups clearly unbridgeable. Importantly, once again it is the Congress party at the Centre and the state level which is facing a challenging, insurmountable situation, argues K Naresh Kumar, from Hyderabad. New Delhi, however, has some answers to the complex situation.

“Not all States need to be bifurcated or trifurcated, but if there is a demand based on size, population and geographical characteristics, it seems that division would be a wise solution. The jury is still out on Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal, but the early indications are that development will get a boost in these new States unless, of course, misgovernance takes over. In my view, there is a strong case for the creation of Vidarbha (out of Maharashtra, population 9.67 crore) and Telangana (out of Andhra Pradesh, population 7.57 crore). Uttar Pradesh and Bihar should also be further divided.”

-Excerpt from an article Wake up to the state of States by P. Chidambaram, Indian Express, May 18, 2003.

Prophetic words, these? Over seven years ago, P Chidambaram (PC) spoke convincingly about creating the state of Telangana as he felt it had a ‘strong case’ in its favour.

Of course, his party was not in power then and thus he had no political power to bring about neither the desired change, nor the accountability to face its political implications. But miracles happen in Indian politics as it did just a year later.

Cut to 2004 when the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) stormed to power on the ‘aam aadmi’ poll plank replacing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It also toppled the CEO Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. It attained the top slot by capitalizing on the goodwill generated by the then Congress bigwig Y S Rajasekhara Reddy with his pro-poor agenda and importantly, promising to create Telangana if elected to power.

PC’s prediction was about to come true after all.

Nearly seven years and after yet another sweep of the local elections by the Congress party, Telangana is still an unattained dream. Since 2001,the movement has seen everything – a leader who floated a party- Telangana Rashtra Samiti – and also built a dedicated political career from near wilderness (K Chandrasekhar Rao- KCR) , a national level party which has lost its political base by and large and has to bite the bullet one day or the other in the region (Congress party) and a host of political players with their own agendas including the TDP, Communists, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Praja Rajyam and the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).

After the violent student-led agitations of November – December 2009, PC, who political observers feel, was misled by the then chief minister K Rosaiah on the law and order scene in Hyderabad, announced the process of creating the separate state of Telangana.

The Srikrishna Committee (SKC) constituted by the Centre in February 2010 to look into its feasibility however had its own twist to the tale. Over ten months later as the Committee submitted its report with its set of six options for solving the issue, understandably it set off a furore in the state. See KBK Infographics (The six-options of Srikrishna Committee).

One of the six options that the SKC came up with, it categorized two of them as the best and the second best. Option no 6:’Keeping the state united, by providing Constitutional/statutory measures for socio-economic development and political empowerment of Telangana by creating of statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Council’ was considered the best choice by the SKC team and option no 5 ‘Bifurcation of state into Telangana and Seemandhra with Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana & Seemandhra to have a new capital ‘was its second best.

Prof M Sridhar, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad who is now part of a joint action team preparing a counter to the SKC report says: “Justice Srikrishna (Chairman, Committee for Consultation on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh) tried to ‘satisfy’ all unlike a Judge who’s duty was to boldly adjudicate what was right. The judgment is not supposed to please all. When commissioned to consult and recommend on two demands – separate Telangana state and continuing combined Andhra Pradesh, the committee fulfilling the task of widespread consultation attempted to ‘balance’ the demands of three regions. However such an effort is bound to fail as the whole basis of the crisis was regional imbalance. It was, indeed, a tight rope walk for the ‘justice’ to say anything. It looked like non-cohesive fusion of all ‘options’ leading to confusion.”

From the first wave of intense political agitations of 1969-71, when the Telangana Praja Samithi unleashed the ‘Jai Telangana’ movement, the fight for carving out a separate state has never been so intense like in the last 15 months. Unlike the abject political compromise of the strugglers over four decades ago, this time around, the battle is still being fought on various platforms. The support base is strong, seemingly unyielding and the polarization between the pro and anti groups clearly unbridgeable. Importantly, once again it is the Congress party at the centre and the state level which is facing a challenging, insurmountable situation.

The SKC report has however done nothing to defuse the scenario at the ground level. As Prof. Sridhar continues: “The Committee, however, has fulfilled the need of ‘consulting’ wide range of people over a period of one year. The Union was blamed for ‘hurry’ in declaring on December 9, 2009, that process for creating Telangana was started without consulting all. Given the limitations and pressures under which the Committee was working, it was difficult to avoid ambiguity. It is also not reasonable to expect this committee to clear the mud piled up by unscrupulous political leaders of Andhra Pradesh and the Centre. This report is a sad reflection of miserable failure of all Chief Ministers of state since its inception, in integrating the people of three regions. Alternatively, the innocent people of state have to depend only on political wisdom, as all other wise men failed them.”

On the suggested two options, the academic adds: ‘The Committee has simply conveyed its confusion to already confused Union Government which was of course confused by double tongued and U turning political parties of Andhra Pradesh on this issue. Whether Union Government wanted or not, people expected that the Committee would steer the State and Center through the confusion. However, whatever that could be retrieved from the options and the conclusions drawn by the Committee, it could be inferred that Committee could not hold itself from suggesting division of Andhra Pradesh as reflected in options 2 to 5. Other two options are useless as the Committee rightly felt first one i.e., ‘maintaining status quo’ was not practical, while option six was proved futile long back. It is more idealistic to suggest that ‘good governance’ would be the real solution to the problem of discrimination and regional disparities.’

On the face of it, the Congress seems to be the party which is facing a triple whammy. It is facing a relentless, hostile reception in the 10 districts of Telangana and the party legislators have kept away from even minimal public interaction, fearing their wrath. Added to it is the rise and rise of Jaganmohan Reddy who is challenging them from New Delhi to Hyderabad to his native region of Rayalaseema. The intra-party revolt of its own MLAs and MPs either challenging or compelling the High Command to set the process of state creation in motion has definitely added to its long list of woes.

Innumerable party meetings and midnight conferences later, the party has been perceived to have lost it – the ability to firefight, cajole with a cabinet reshuffle or use plain threats of recommending President’s rule to make the erring legislators fall in line – and is seen clutching at straws in the form of friendly political formations to bail it out.

The 18- member strong Praja Rajyam party of erstwhile matinee idol Chiranjeevi and the rabidly communal MIM with seven MLAs with a vice-like grip on the old city areas of Hyderabad are more than eager to help. Hidden agendas are bound to surface sooner than later. The notable exception was the CPM which openly urged the Congress to settle for a solution ‘one way or the other’.

Telangana statehood is of course based on a campaign made by its stakeholders raising the successive neglect of the region by both the Congress and Telugu Desam chief ministers who have been in power since the state was formed in 1956. Overall, however the Andhra Pradesh politicians, especially of the Congress party have been feeling ignored since the time of UPA-II in May 2009. The compulsions of coalition politics and the relatively tame attitude of the Hyderabad power lobbies saw the state being less represented in the central cabinet.

With the death of YSR in September, 2009, the party has had to face increasing pressure and continuous posturing by TRS and its allies. Worse, it saw that the people of Telangana were solidly behind the mercurial KCR, as the prevalent feeling is that it is only his party which has kept the momentum going for close to a decade on the separate statehood issue. See box (TRS: A fact file)

The first two weeks of the new year however has seen relatively less action on the streets of Hyderabad and the Telangana region as the parties have had to combat some rear-guard action by the law and order machinery from New Delhi and the Sankranti festival mood which saw many students of the region go home to celebrate. Out of a total strength of 6000 students in Osmania University, the nerve centre of the agitation since end 2009, more than 4000 had gone home a week into the new year and hence the government could breathe easy. The proactive move of the University in declaring early and longer holiday break of more than two weeks too helped in evacuation of the sensitive area, observers felt. The problem however is not going away yet, as the students return and the intellectuals too join them.

As elucidated, the separate statehood issue is now an integrated effort with all sections of the society throwing in their might. Protests on the slightest perceived or real injustice meted out to the region or its people are being taken up instantly. Dedicated cyberspace in the form of blogs, discussion groups and social media sites like Facebook have many animatedly updating the various ‘breaking news’ stories.

As M Bharath Bhushan, founder of the hugely popular site http://www.telanganautsav.wordpress.com states: ‘This movement is no more being controlled only by self-seeking politicians. We have hosted a variety of news and articles on the movement and we are being tracked in more than 30 countries round the world’. Mail boxes of the activists are routinely clogged with discussion group messages announcing the release of an audio CD, book or meeting dedicated to the cause.

The route to realizing the separate state dream is still long and unwieldy. But activists seem to be united in their opinion that the critical momentum that it has achieved in this period is the best it has ever had. And herein lies the scope for hope or give the governments in Hyderabad and Delhi, a long rope
………………..


Andhra Political Parties and Telangana issue

Ironic but true. The Congress party has always been perceived to be against the creation of Telangana ever since the major outbreak of resistance and violence broke out in 1969, followed by its use-and-throw attitude on this contentious issue during the elections of 2004 and 2009, not to speak of post December 2009 when the Centre announced and later backtracked on its intent to set the process of creating the state.

The CPM is the only other major player which is seen consistently anti-Telangana in the state.

The Telugu Desam Party has played flip-flop, opposing it in 2004 elections and supporting the cause in 2009. However, it bit the dust when it tried to balance the aspirations of both the regions. Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP supremo famously declared that for him both Andhra and Telangana regions were like his two eyes. When they lost the recent set of by-elections in 2010, his own party members remarked sarcastically that both the leader and party are now ‘blind’ in one eye!

CPI and BJP, political rivals are united on the case of creating Telangana. In fact, during the last Assembly elections and after, the party has been saying that if they are given the chance to capture power in Delhi, they would declare the state in 100 days after assuming the mantle.

The CPI has ideological differences with its ‘comrades-in-arms’ on this but still has gamely carried on.

The johnney –came-lately party of cine star Chiranjeevi – Praja Rajyam – and the rapidly rising political star – Jaganmohan Reddy – are staunchly anti-Telangana and would plumb solidly behind the united status of the state.

…………………………..

United Andhra with 3 regional councils

Amidst the ongoing Telangana stir for a separate state, New Delhi seems to have made up its mind to keep Andhra Pradesh united with certain specific economic empowerment provisions to meet the hopes and aspirations of Telangana Rayalaseema and coastal regions on the lines suggested by Srikrishna panel. Major outlines suggested are:

1. United Andhra to deal with law and order, healthcare, major irrigation, legal affairs, higher education etc.
2. Regional Councils will be empowered to handle planning, primary and secondary education, district level healthcare, vocational training and minor irrigation.
3. Coastal Andhra will also have a sub-plan with subjects like education, public health, local administration and irrigation to be handled by a regional council headed by an MLA with a cabinet status. – Our Delhi Bureau

Source: http://www.powerpolitics.in/Issues/feb2011/feb2011-7.php

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