Fiddling as Andhra burns
The political class has failed Andhra Pradesh as is seen in the present political crisis. Just for the sake of vote bank politics, almost all the political parties are playing to the respective galleries not caring about the lives of innocent people. The centre as well as the Congress party cannot escape the blame that it was due to their callous attitude, this mess has been created. Did they not realise that they were playing with fire while deciding on the separate Telengana issue? Even the Sri Krishna Commission was careful in giving six options. After all it was an emotive issue and the centre as well as the Congress should have anticipated the consequences.
Now the Seemandhra is burning and life has come to a standstill, reminding one of the earlier Telengana and Andhra agitations in the late sixties and early seventies. The destruction to public property and danger to the lives of the common man is immense. With a reluctant chief minister who does not want a Telengana, even the law and order has become a huge problem. Vested interests would jump in play havoc soon.
Historically, Telengana was part of the princely state of Nizam while the rest of the Andhra Pradesh were part of the Madras presidency. The first State Reorganisation Commission had left the issue open that the Telangana region be constituted as a separate state with a provision for unification with Andhra state after 1961 elections. But Nehru in his wisdom agreed to merge Telengana with Andhra. Since then a demand for separate Telengana had been cropping up now and then. The Telengana Praja Samithi movement led by M Chena Reddy was one of them but Reddy later joined Congress and merged his party. Indira Gandhi handled the agitations with finesse and did not agree for a separate Telengana or Andhra. Since then there were three chief ministers from Telengana including PV Narasimha Rao, Vengala Rao and Chenna Reddy but none of them encouraged Telengana movement. The other chief ministers, including Telugu Desam supremo NT Rama Rao or his successor Chandrababu Naidu, and later Rajashekhar Reddy, too, were not in favour.
The Telengana Rashtra Samithi was born in 2001 when Babu sacked K Chandra Shekhar Rao from his party. It was the Congress, which encouraged the TRS for an alliance in 2004 polls and promised a separate state in its manifesto. But later, Rajashekhar Reddy crushed the TRS with the result in 2009 polls it was almost wiped out. He also weakened Praja Rajyam, which later merged with the Congress and the TDP.
Right from the beginning, the dream of a separate state has been eluding the people of the region. Had Nehru agreed, the merger would not have taken place at all. Had Indira Gandhi yielded to pressure Telengana would have been born. Had Chenna Reddy continued the agitation the state might have been born. If Chandrababu Naidu did not sack KCR, the TRS would not have been born. Had Rajashekhar Reddy lived longer, the Centre would not have announced a separate state on the midnight of December 9, 2009 as he always said ‘Over my dead body.’ The core issue continues to be Hyderabad where rich industrialists from Andhra have invested billions of rupees. Had the Centre not decided to give Hyderabad to Telengana or make it a joint capital for ten years, the intensity of the agitation would not have been so violent.
So why did the Congress-led UPA decide on a separate state when there are at least a dozen more demands for separate states elsewhere is pending? Also there was a vertical division in all the parties, including the Congress, except the CPI-M, for a separate state. Almost all the parties are playing for electoral gains. Andhra Pradesh has been a Congress citadel for long and had contributed to the formation of UPA1 and UPA 2 to come to power. Now Congress fears it may be wiped out if Telengana is not given. The region has 17 Lok Sabha seats and 117 Assembly seats. After a secret pact with the TRS for merger, the Congress hopes to get at least 15 of the 17 seats even if it gets no seats in the rest of the state where the rise of YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy is posing a threat. It was due to the mishandling of the Congress high Command that the YSR congress was born. In the bargain the Telugu Desam is left out of reckoning. Squeezed from all sides Naidu has no other option than to knock at the doors of the BJP. It was Naidu who stalled a separate Telengana during the NDA regime using his clout. But he has made a flip- flop and gave a letter of support in 2009. Now he is going back on it.
The Congress is unable to deal with the spate of resignations from the legislators, ministers and MPs from the Seemandhra region. Even the chief minister Kiran Reddy is on an open revolt over the division of the state. Having created the mess, it is the responsibility of the centre to deal with it. The state government too cannot abdicate its responsibility.