By T S Sudhir
Last week, when chief minister Konijeti Rosaiah was asked at a press conference if he was going to Delhi to discuss the situation in Andhra Pradesh, he replied with a honesty and candour, rarely found in politicians of today. “Individual party views are already being represented in New Delhi. It is very chilly there. So I can’t go.” The reply did amuse a few journos but the truth is no one is blind to the chill that has set in on the administration in Andhra Pradesh.
In fact, ask anyone and they will tell you there is a government only `naam ke vaaste’ (in name) in Andhra Pradesh. Look at this latest instance. The chief minister and his senior cabinet colleagues were smiling rather sheepishly as they described the cinematic manner in which Vijayawada MP Lagadapati Rajagopal `escaped’ from the government hospital in Vijayawada on Sunday night even as 300 policemen blinked. Then for over 15 hours, there is no word on him, SPs of all districts in the state are alerted and then he arrives at NIMS hospital in Hyderabad in an autorickshaw and then runs, hops and jumps into a bed inside the hospital, chased by policemen and cameras, and immediately pretends to be asleep. It must be the first case of a patient sprinting to hospital to get admitted, that too a man whose health condition was said to be precarious because he has been on fast for the last six days.
And what does the government do? It suspends the commissioner of Vijayawada police, with the CM casting aspersions on the police force’s honesty. It suspends policemen for failing in their duty, while assuring Rajagopal that no cases will be booked against him.
The crorepati industrialist-turned-politician obviously thought he could get away with pulling this `fast’ one. After all, the same Andhra Pradesh watched as KCR first broke his fast on the second day in Khammam, willingly reached out for a glass of fruit juice, then resumed the fast after a verbal backlash from student groups and other pro-Telangana forces and got admitted to the same NIMS hospital. KCR made `hospital hunger strikes’ fashionable in a state that itself is now sick. Sick of these politicians who have occupied precious beds in hospitals across the state. And because you and I, the taxpayers, pay to keep these politicians `hungry’ inside hospital.
What I am disappointed about is why Rosaiah is seeming like a fish out of water, unable to handle the most difficult period in the state’s history. After all, he is one of the most experienced administrators in the Andhra Pradesh Congress. As finance minister to three chief ministers, he has presented 15 budgets, a record in the country. Someone who learnt his politics at the feet of Prof N G Ranga. Someone who was always touted as an efficient number 2 has not been able to show himself as a commanding number one.
Rosaiah has been on the defensive ever since Governor N D Tiwari swore him in as the CM on 3rd September. YSR’s followers who switched their loyalties to Jagan, were aghast that Rosaiah instead of being a Gulzarilal Nanda, was being groomed by Delhi to occupy the seat for much longer. The pinpricks, insults, barbs became more visible, more loud. So much that Rosaiah had to ensure someone from Delhi read the riot act to his ministers to fall in line. Not that it helped. Several upstart ministers still treated him with less than the respect he deserved as chief minister.
And when the world knows the top man is working with his hands tied (both by the High command and by Congressmen in the state), it is a field day for blackmailers and opportunists. Rioters can get away with vandalising public and private property because the state is unable to take a firm stand. KCR, basking in the glory of having got the Centre to bend, issues provocative statements like “there will be bloodbath, a stone for a stone’ and no one in the government thinks it necessary to stop him. Those canvassing for United Andhra Pradesh threaten to stop supplies of vegetables and milk to Hyderabad. I feel sad and guilty that we, the people of Andhra Pradesh, elected such representatives this April-May, who only know the language of aggression and blackmail.
Already Congress leaders who during YSR’s time used to say T is for Tiger (as in YSR, the Tiger of Kadapa) and not Telangana are now singing a different tune. A senior Telangana Congressman who was a minister in YSR’s cabinet in 2004-09 but lost the elections this time round is obviously smelling opportunity in a Telangana state of tomorrow. He told me yesterday. “We are not going to ask anyone to leave Hyderabad or any other part of Telangana. Everyone can stay.” Thanks, Mr Politician for your largesse. For the next many years, all non-Telanganites who continue to live in a Hyderabad, in a Warangal, in a Karimnagar will have to put up this condescending benevolence.
But if you dare to criticise, you will be doomed. KCR gave a veiled warning to the media the other day. “If you do not project the pro-Telangana voices, the cable operators will disconnect your channels. This has already happened in three districts.” The united Andhra Pradesh lobby is also putting similar pressure on the channels to showcase their cause. Either way, the messenger will be shot.
It is not just a government that looks non-existent. We do not even have an Opposition that can effectively take on the government. Chandrababu Naidu, once called the CEO of Andhra Pradesh, has been handed over the pink slip quite literally by KCR (pink being KCR’s party colour). A confused Naidu, not knowing what to do, is planning to say `Jai Andhra’ in Guntur and `Jai Telangana’ in Warangal. Very clearly, Naidu’s political software badly needs an overhaul.
Colleagues who have worked with Naidu for over 25 years say the U-turn on Telangana before the 2009 elections proved very costly. “But Sir, you have not done a U-turn, it is more of a V-turn or a W-turn,” I joked to one of them, referring to TDP’s Kabhi Haan kabhi naa on Telangana, under pressure from the party’s coastal and Rayalseema MLAs. “In Hyderabad, sab chalta hai,” he retorted. “Because no one follows traffic rules here.”
Though said in jest, that is the bravado of a politician. That they will never be booked for an offence. Being rejected by the people in an election doesn’t mean a thing because even with a handful of legislators you can hold a weak government to ransom.
Andhra Pradesh is no longer the theatre of the absurd. It increasingly resembles a Shakespearean tragedy where Rosaiah unfortunately does not even have the stature of a Hamlet or a King Lear. To ridicule the government of the day, opposition parties generally refer to Andhra Pradesh as Andhera Pradesh. Today it is indeed gloomy and very bleak, with everyone groping in the dark.
I pray for some light in 2010.