Telangana tangle here to stay
Just bifurcated Andhra Pradesh has always been a stronghold of the Congress. When the entire north India rejected the Congress in post-emergency election and, even a mighty leader like Indira Gandhi, was defeated by a clown looking Raj Naraian, Andhra Pradesh brought her back to Lok Sabha from Medak constituency, falling in Telangana Region. Andhra stood by Mrs. Gandhi in her darkest days. It was because of the voters of Andhra that the UPA-I government could be formed in 2004 when every one thought that the BJP would return to power. Come 2009 general election, the Congress romped home with a convincing victory because of Andhra people and formed UPA-II.
It is sad indeed that the Congress has divided Andhra Pradesh whatsoever and howsoever compelling may have been the reasons and, thereby, committed a grave mistake. The results are bound to be disastrous; the Congress is certain to be routed in coastal Andhra and Ralayaseema, together called Seemandhra in the coming Lok Sabha elections. In 2009 general elections, the Congress won 33 out of its total seats from Andhra. Chances of the Congress winning in the Seemandhra assembly election, held simultaneously with Sabha poll, too appear bleak.
Now that the Andhra Reorganisation Bill has been passed by two houses of Parliament, the Congress hopes to win a sizeable number of 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana. The crucial question of TRS’s merger with the Congress still remains unsettled. Chandrashekhar Rao refused categorically to say if he would merge his TRS with the Congress. Instead, he spoke of a discussion with the Congress on a possible electoral alliance. If Rao does not ditch the Congress at the last moment and sticks to his promise to merge his party with Sonia Gandhi’s party, chances are that the Congress may bag as many as 14 of 17 seats. Rao, who has spearheaded the movement for a separate state, had assured the Congress that TRS would merge with it after the Telangana Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament. One has to wait and watch; the situation is not yet clear.
However, the creation of Telangana marks the end of a long journey for those who have campaigned for the statehood. The movement for Telangana has rolled on for decades with peaks and troughs of popular mobilisation. Electoral alliances have been made and broken in the name of statehood. Short-term political calculations by a nervy Congress party ahead of April-May general elections have, evidently, governed the creation of Telangana.
It was in the Andhra region that the strongest campaign for the reorganisation of state boundaries around linguistic communities – rather than administrative histories – took place in the early 1950s. Protests that followed the death of Potti Sriamulu, a Gandhian, on hunger strike led India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to concede the division of the previously bilingual Madras state. The Telugu-speaking district of Telangana was then added to eventual state of Andhra Pradesh.
With Telangana set to become the 29th state of India, K Chandrashekhar Rao will go down in history as the man who played a key role by reviving the movement for a separate state 14 years ago. KCR, as he is popularly known among his people, almost achieved his goal in 2009 by going on an indefinite fast, forcing the central government to announce that the process for separation Telangana state will be initiated. However, the backlash in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions forced the Congress to put the issue in cold storage.
While the Congress, the BJP and even Telangana leaders of the Telugu Desam Party are now trying credit, even the bitter critics of 60-year-old KCR admit that it was he who started along by floating Telangana Samithi. He resigned as deputy speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly and quit the TDP to revive the movement, which was all but dead despite the massive agitation in 1969.
Hailing from Medak district, the frail-looking KCR gave the impression of self-respect and self-rule. Known for his acerbic criticism of rivals with a mixture of Telugu with Urdu words, he galvanized peoples’ support by highlighting the injustices meted out to the region since its merger with Andhra Pradesh when the linguistic state was formed in 1956.
His remarks and slogans like –Telangana waley jago, Aandhra waley bhago (arise people of Telangana, run away people of Andhra) – made him controversial. He built TRS into a political force in the region. Realising this, the Congress entered into an alliance with the TRS in 2004 by promising to look into Telangana demand. Making an impressive debut, the TRS bagged 26 assembly and five Lok Sabha seats but could not emerge as kingmaker in the state. Rao’s credibility took a beating with his decision to join the Congress-led coalitions both at the centre and in the state but he argued it is part of his strategy to achieve his goal. His flip-flop on the issue, the repeated deadlines he fixed for achieving the goal, his perceived dictatorial attitude and controversial decisions disillusioned the party cadres and 10 legislators staged a revolt. Subsequently, he pulled out of coalition government and threatened to expose the Congress for betraying the people of Telangana. However, his gamble of going for by-elections in 2008 boomeranged on him as the TRS could retain only seven assembly and two Lok Sabha seats. He found a new ally in TDP after it backed the demand for a separate Telangana before 2009 elections. The TRS contested 50 of the 119 assembly seats in the Telangana region but won only 10. The Congress retained power and the then chief minister Y S Rajashekhar Reddy interpreted the TRS rout as the vote against bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. IPA