Technical decisions driving politics
In today’s world, there are entrepreneurial politicians and there are political entrepreneurs. The latter variety can be identified in almost all the parties of the country, barring the leftist parties to a measurable extent.
And, the former variety has emerged in the political firmament with the belief that ideology should be divorced from governance and other State functions. The glorious concoction that these two elements make, lead up to leadership decisions that leadership studies call ‘technical decisions.’ The division of Andhra Pradesh (AP) is one such decision that goes beyond the pale of politics and instead fall in the area a ‘managerial’ attitude. There is a reason why it is important to identify these traits right at the outset.
Consider this: the Congress Party-led UPA II government took the decision to divide the state based on a calculation that in its current incarnation, after the dissidence and eventual break-up with Jaganmohan Reddy, who laid claims to the political and material resources of his strongman father, YS Rajashekhar Reddy, it is not exactly possible to garner enough Parliamentary seats out of a total of 42, in 2014 general elections. In the last 2009 polls, it had got a significant total of 33 seats.
So, the party decided to give in to the demand of a separate Telengana state that constituted 41 per cent of the total area of AP and had a share in the population of the state to the extent of almost the same 41 per cent, thus could almost vertically split the number of the total seats in half, even before delimitation. Thus, with the Party catering to the demand of the separate state, it will be able to corner sizable number of seats that could still uphold the Congress Party’s popularity in the south of the Vindhyas.
But the separate Telengana statehood movement has been existing for decades, much beyond these electoral contortions of cynical political aspirations. It had a multi-hued and an storied history that is almost as old as the independence of the country. The pre-eminent trend in the state was one of a peasant mobilisation against first, the Nizam (Telengana constituted the whole of the dominion of the royal court of Hyderabad) by the undivided communist party, the CPI following its then general secretary, BT Ranadive.
The peasant rebellion continued even after the independence and accession of the princely state of Hyderabad to independent India. Alongwith the movement against the landlords, a separate Telengana demand existed on a broader platform as fears existed that a merger with Telugu-speaking Rayalaseema and the coastal areas could divide the resources of the Hyderabad region, without the people getting benefits of integration like government jobs, better educational facilities and the like.
While Ranadive line was later repudiated by the CPI and later, the CPI (M), the Telengana state agitation continued. Significantly, it also costed the job, albeit indirectly, of at least one chief minister, a young Brahmin Congressman called, PV Narasimha Rao, during the time of Indira Gandhi’s rule. Rao had deftly sought to deal with the problem by introducing land reforms that benefitted the region.
But this created an animus against him in Andhra part of the state, thus giving rise to a counter rebellion named ‘Jai Andhra.’ Rao never forgot the humiliation, even though his political career continued to prosper after a shift to the national capital, New Delhi and he eventually became a prime minister.
Returning to the story of the Congress Party’s decision to accede to the demand of a separate Telengana state, one can also argue that while this ‘technical’ handling of the political leadership smacked of an inability to appreciate the roots of the divisive emotions, and thus engender political empathy. For example, of the 57 years that Telengana remained conjoined to the rest of Andhra Pradesh, the region had home-grown chief ministers for only ten and half years, while the rest 46 years, it was ruled by chief ministers from what is being called Seemandhra.
Currently, even though the devolution of resources have not been undertaken yet, and both Seemandhra and Telengana will continue to have the use of Hyderabad, thus laying to rest any of the fears of those who have invested millions of rupees in real estate, the Congress Party’s decision may yet come back to bite.
The reason for this lies in the Party’s endemic centralising attitude clashing with the inherently democratic de-centralisation of power that smaller states engender. Though there is a contrary opinion as well that smaller states end up empowering the central government more, as they are more manipulatable, examples of the federalising Indian phenomenon do not support this kind of belief.
The BJP, of course, has been badly exposed in this process due to its characteristic of ‘Hunting with the hounds and running with the hare.’ They first agreed to the decision of dividing AP, and then opposed it when it was implemented.
The author is a senior journalist