In middle of the Telangana tussle!
Even though government has been able to introduce the bill seeking to create Telangana, bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, it is doubtful whether the measure would be passed in the two houses of Parliament? Mere introduction of the bill in the Lok Sabha witnessed such ugly scenes as never before seen, resulting in suspension of 16 members, mostly of the Congress, for the rest of the session. One wonders what will be the scene when the bill is taken up for consideration on Wednesday.
Even as Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, announced that he managed to introduce the Bill, the principal opposition party – the BJP – doubted whether it had been introduced at all. Questions were being raised if the procedure to introduce the bill was followed. According to a preliminary version of the debates, the bill was introduced after the house met at noon. It was a point made by Parliamentary Affairs minister, Kamal Nath too. Shinde added that the bill is now property of the house. The BJP went a step forward declaring that it would not hold any more discussions with the UPA on carving out the new state.
The BJP’s stand too was ambiguous; it supports the formation of Telangana in principle, and, at the same time, wants the concerns of Seemandhra to be addressed, also blames the Congress for the mess in Parliament. Still, worse situation may arise when the Bill is tabled in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling UPA does not have a majority. Judging by tempers of members, the passage of the legislation appears unlikely unless government bulldozes it, which it may ignoring the feeling of the people of Seemandhra region. It will indeed be unfortunate.
And, what does Congress gain if a prosperous state like Andhra Pradesh is bifurcated? Practically, nothing; on the contrary the party looses whatever it has. Seemandhra accounts for as many as 25 parliamentary constituencies, of which Congress commands 19, Telugu Desam Party four and Jaganmohan Reddy’s party two. With division of Andhra Pradesh appearing likely, the Congress may lose all its 19 seats, paving the way for electoral grains for BJP, TDP and YSR Congress which has substantial clout in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, together called Seemandhra. Now that the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy is certain to resign in accordance with the wishes of his party colleagues, opposed to Telangana. Congress leaders will be in for bigger trouble If Kiran Reddy launches a new party. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won 33 of its total seats from Andhra Pradesh, but mess over Telangana and consequential loss in Seemandhra will undermine its chances of forming a government at the centre after the next election. Chance of the Congress, winning in Seemandhra assembly poll, being held simultaneously with Lok Sabha election, look very bleak. The Congress is hoping in vain to win a sizeable chunk of 17 seats in Telangana in the event of the AP reorganisational bill going through. But more important is the question if Chandrashekhar Rao will merge his TRS with the Congress. It was on that assurance that the Congress is pressing so far hard for passage of Andhra Reorganization Bill. Both the Congress and TRS have been vying with each other for claiming credit for creation of Telangana if it is formed at all. If Rao does not ditch the Congress at the last moment and sticks to his promise to merger TRS with Sonia Gandhi’s party, chances are that the Congress may bag as many 14 of 17 seats.
Those from Telangana see statehood as culmination of a struggle as long as the history of independent India. Those from Seemandhra resist the division with equal force. Political equality was also bound to be upset, and no one appeared to have as much to lose as Seemandhra politicians from the Congress. Yet the top Congress leadership failed either to anticipate and manage the escalation of tension or make proposed partition as painless as possible by drawing in two sides for a dialogue on questions of resources sharing.
The Congress leadership did not explain the basis on which Telengana’s aspirations justified a separate state while other intense agitations for separate statehood are ignored. Till the end, Seemandhra MPs and MLAs led petitions to Congress leadership, conveying to their constituents that things may still go their way. In all these years of dithering, the Congress looked like it wanted to play it both ways, until it abruptly sealed the deal on the eve of Lok Sabha elections
History will never forgive the Congress for the damage it may do to a prosperous state like Andhra Pradesh which may take many years to repair. On the economic front the division may change the fortunes of 85 million people. One of the fastest growing states in India, Andhra Pradesh has successfully brought down poverty level to 9.2 per cent, which is less than half of the national average. Andhra has also emerged as one of the leading states in the information technology, pharmaceuticals, health services and infrastructure. It is of vital importance to ensure that a break up does not whittle down these achievements. IPA