By T S Sudhir
Andhra Pradesh slipped into the stone age on Friday. The laboratory of this modern-day Jurassic Park was Mahbubabad railway station in the eastern part of Warangal district where quite of few hundreds (some said 300, some guessed 2000), demonstrated effectively that they had not quite evolved.
Their hunger for bloodshed and appetite to maim and hurt their political opponents came to the fore as a shower of stones picked up from the railway tracks derailed those on platform number 1. The size of the stones, the perfect weapon, symbolising hatred, venom, ruthlessness and vandalism. Their targets retaliated with bullets.
The anger of these so-called pro-Telangana protestors was directed at Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR’s son and the MP from Kadapa, a constituency in non-Telangana Rayalaseema. Jagan was to arrive at Mahbubabad railway station on the first leg of his Warangal tour, to meet and console families who had lost a relative reportedly unable to bear the shock of YSR’s death last year.
Jagan’s opposition to bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is like a red rag to the Telangana bull. So visit Warangal, he must not, declared Telangana politicians. In a way, that was taking this region back to the period between 15 August 1947 & 17 September 1948, when Nizam’s Hyderabad (largely present-day Telangana) was not part of independent India.
“Does he need a visa to visit Telangana? Is it not part of India? How can anyone stop anyone from travelling to any part of India?” asked angry Jagan supporters. On the face of it, a logical question.
“We are stopping him because he thinks he is too smart. On the pretext of consoling the families, Jagan is trying to make a political statement. He had only a political motive,” is the retort of the scholarly Prof Kodandaram, convenor of the Telangana Joint Action Committee. His detractors accuse him of being a HMV (as in His Master’s Voice, the master being K Chandrasekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti). Byelections to the assembly seats that TRS MLAs resigned are due in August. And Jagan cannot be allowed to mobilise crowds and then use those images to rubbish the Telangana sentiment.
Telangana votaries also ask why Jagan should visit only those who committed suicide for YSR. “Let him also visit those who killed themselves for Telangana.” In this despicable bragging about `I have as many suicides in my kitty as you, if not more’ tug-of-war, those who died are mere statistics, used merely for political one-upmanship.
If Jagan had only deferred his trip, knowing fully well that the situation was tense, peace in Andhra Pradesh would not have been threatened once again. Common people would not have been subjected to yet another nightmare of bomb threats and violence. Passengers travelling on the Intercity Express that Jagan boarded from Secunderabad on Friday morning were livid that they were being put to such hardship. The train was stopped at Wangapalli station for nearly four hours and did not move till Jagan was offloaded.
Jagan’s argument is that he is doing it for his late father, a promise he made at his grave at Idupulapaya in Kadapa district. That it is not a Congress party tour, for Veerappa Moily to pick up the phone and issue instructions.
“You travelled with me when I started this tour in Khammam district,” he told me yesterday evening. “Did you see me making a single political speech there? All I did was to meet 54 families and unveil some 80 statues of my dad. Similary here, I had no intention of saying anything political.” The point being made is that when Khammam is also part of Telangana, why did KCR not stop Jagan there. The Kadapa MP’s camp alleges it is because the huge crowds that came to greet Jagan in Khammam rattled KCR and a repeat performance in Warangal could have helped YSR’s son knock out the TRS leader with a son-stroke.
When Jagan made a pitch for the CM’s chair after his father’s death in September last year, his overeager supporters cited the precedent of an inexperienced Rajiv Gandhi succeeding Indira Gandhi in similar tragic circumstances in 1984. Jagan should have known in the Congress culture, such comparisons are simply not acceptable.
That is perhaps why no comparisons were drawn between Jagan’s proposed Warangal yatra and what Rahul Gandhi did in Mumbai, visiting the city despite the Shiv Sena’s threats to stop him. There of course the `PM-in-waiting’ had the support and the might of the entire Maharashtra government with him, unlike Jagan who seems to have opened up several fronts at the same time, including powerful groups within the Congress regime that don’t exactly see him as a friend.
A senior Congress leader from Telangana, who till the other day, won’t stop singing paens to YSR, told me two days back. “You know, Jagan does not mention Madam or Rahul Gandhi’s name at any of his meetings. How can that be acceptable?” Clearly, to move up the Congress ladder, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy needs to realise his middle name should be `Sycophant’.
And since he is not seen to be possessing the typical DNA of a Congresswala, rumours that his days in the grand old party are numbered, are doing the rounds for the last two weeks. His close confidants say he does not want to leave but that if a group of Congressmen in Hyderabad and Delhi continue to make life difficult for him, it will leave him with few options.
The Congress already has Plan B in place. If Jagan exits his dad’s party, the Congress will cosy up to Chiranjeevi. The courtship has been on for several months now, though under wraps, and Rosaiah for one, would certainly want to bring Chiru home. `Congress ka haath, Megastar ke saath’. Atleast the wily Congressmen would be able to make Chiranjeevi, known to be a fantastic dancer, dance to their tunes unlike a Jagan, who always looks out of step.
Does all this make Jagan feel like an Abhimanyu? Always in the vortex of a storm, much of it his own making. With epithets like egoistic and selfish thrown at him, this businessman-turned-politician has not been able to strike the right deals with those who matter. The last nine months have demonstrated that takeovers are always messy and there is many a slip between the cup and the lip when it comes to inheriting the throne.
“He should be patient like Rahul,” a Congress leader told me. “Or atleast learn from the mistakes his dad committed by taking on the likes of PV Narasimha Rao, Kotla Vijaybhaskar Reddy and N Janardhan Reddy in the 90s, earning for himself the tag of the perennial rebel and a troublemaker.” It was only after 1999 that a more sober and mature YSR endeared himself to New Delhi.
But while Jagan mulls his political future, Telangana politicians rejoice over their success in blocking his entry into their `territory’. This will have dangerous repurcussions. Today it is Jagan, yesterday it was Chandrababu Naidu, tomorrow it could be Chiranjeevi and the day after perhaps Rosaiah. Even you, me, anyone. Filmstars belonging to the coastal Andhra region have had their shoots disrupted by TRS activists. Even roadside eateries sporting `Andhra meals ready’ boards have not been spared.
Justice Srikrishna and his committee has time till December to consider the tricky issue of whether Telangana should or should not be formed. Till that happens, the likes of KCR, who warned that Warangal district will turn into a warzone if Jagan set foot on it, cannot be allowed to draw a Wagah border between Hyderabad and Warangal.
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com