By T S Sudhir
2009 was probably the most newsy year for Andhra Pradesh for mostly all the wrong reasons. Here is my top 10 lows of the year, not in any particular order.
10. The late V P Singh used to say he always moved around with a resignation letter in his pocket. In the December of 2009, politicians of all hues in Andhra Pradesh emulated the former PM in letter and in spirit. Resignation letters were fashionable again, as the fax machine of the Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly whirred 24×7. No one in the state, it seemed, wanted any position of power. But look closely, each of the letters were drafted in a manner that would make them invalid. Sample: 12 ministers of the Rosaiah cabinet sending a joint resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi. But will someone tell these ministers also to immediately vacate their bungalows and surrender their securitymen. Tough chance, I am told, considering the CM’s official residence is still occupied by YSR’s son.
9. Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite weapon against the British Raj was unleashed in a new avatar. Fast-unto-death inside hospitals, supplemented with IV fluids and special nutrition, that can reportedly keep a person alive for years. K Chandrasekhar Rao, the political face of the Telangana movement, was the first off the block. His already frail structure, embellished by a grey stubble, made Delhi more nervous. His success in forcing the Centre to blink on the night of 9th December, motivated many a politician from the coastal Andhra-Rayalaseema regions to go hungry as well. The most famous of them, Vijayawada MP Lagadapati Rajagopal `escaped’ from Vijayawada government hospital because he wanted to `fast-unto-death’ in a better hospital. In filmy style that would have done a Chiranjeevi proud, Rajagopal, slipped through the police cordon from Vijayawada to Hyderabad and sprinted into NIMS hospital. A fast many a day makes you sprint away. Rajagopal incidentally also heads the Andhra Pradesh Olympic Association. If politics is the last resort of the scoundrel, hospitals were the last resort of the politician in Andhra Pradesh in 2009.
8. On a December afternoon, when politicians decided to go back to college, they had not quite contended with the ragging they will have to put up with. The moment Telugu Desam leaders set foot in Osmania University, they were attacked, one of them beaten up with chappals, his shirt torn. A few hours later, realising the public mood had turned against them, the students first blamed a rowdy-sheeter and a lawyer (ahem!) for leading the attack and then did a Munnabhai by giving the TDP-ians a `jadoo ki jhappi’ and roses. They have worked for now, but no guarantee, the thorns won’t prick tomorrow.
7. Hyderabad now has its own Bal Thackeray. Like the Maharashtrian Manoos, he too loves the good things in life. And has an acerbic tongue as well. KCR was quick to sense the political vacuum post YSR’s death and released the Telangana genie out of the bottle. He would like everyone to believe he is Mahatma Gandhi but the manner in which he has created the Telangana vs Andhra-Rayalaseema divide, coupled with pungent slogans of `Andhra waale bhago’, it is clear where he draws inspiration from. And there is undoubtedly more to come. Sample this warning : “If media houses continue to air anti-Telangana stories, they will face a reaction worse than what the Shiv Sena did.”
6. Except for a couple of chopper rides when floods ravaged five districts of Andhra Pradesh, Rosaiah has stayed grounded ever since his nameplate changed from FM to CM. Rosaiah has the top job but with his wings clipped, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. The 77-year-old started wearing sneakers to keep up with the times but time has only been running out for this Congress veteran.
5. `Na nar hoon, na naari hoon, Indira ka pujari hoon, Sanjay ka sawaari hoon, Main Narayan Dutt Tiwari hoon’ was just bad sycophantic poetry. Sleazy photographs of what seemed like the first citizen of Andhra Pradesh in a state of undress with two women was another huge low in public life. And once they were aired on a local Telugu channel, Tiwari’s BP obviously must have sunk. No wonder, the 86-year-old Governor blamed it on his poor health for submitting his resignation.
4. This one was truly rubbing salt into his wounds. Ramalinga Raju, till January 6, 2009, the icon of the IT industry in Hyderabad petititoned the court for a laptop to prepare his legal papers behind bars. The learned judge ordered a typewriter be provided instead. So for the moment, Raju will have to be content with and contend with the real mice inside Central prison. The man who rode the tiger without knowing how to get off it, was logged out of Satyam rather unceremoniously with very few willing to stand by him. Incidentally Raju, one of those from coastal Andhra who made it big in Hyderabad, is also hospitalised now at the same NIMS. KCR and Raju, Telangana and Andhra, in adjoining wards, that would be the stuff Telugu potboilers are made of.
3. A newspaper report that hyped up the terror threat to the first-ever world championship to be held in Hyderabad in any sport, did much damage to the city of the Charminar. Many badminton teams panicked, some decided to pack their racquets and shuttles and take the first flight back home. By the time P Chidambaram decided to do a guest appearance on the final day of the championship, the damage had been done. The `Hyderabad is safe’ line did not cut ice with foreign players. Probably we should have told them Headley and Rana did not visit this city.
2. Chiranjeevi is not used to flops. Even his flops recover money for his producers and distributors. Not so his political innings which has been a bit of a roller-coaster. He garnered a decent percentage of the vote but that wasn’t good enough to make him either the king or the kingmaker. Efforts to tie up or merge with Congress were blocked by powerful lobbies. By the end of the year, his slogan of United Andhra Pradesh made him a hate figure for pro-Telangana groups. The only silver lining for Chiru was his son Ram Charan’s success at the box-office with `Magadheera’, that dealt with the theme of reincarnation. Chiru reborn as a political star badly needs better support cast.
1. First Hyderabad’s success in tackling swine flu was held up to everyone as a role model. But in a few weeks, the spread of the H1N1 in the community was obviously too much to control. Andhra Pradesh recorded over 50 deaths due to swine flu. But no one knew December will see a more deadly form of virus : the political virus.
For 2010 and later, I certainly wish for the people of Andhra Pradesh a better set of politicians to choose from. They say, we get the leaders we deserve. I am certain we deserve better.
Happy New Year !