By T S Sudhir
The people of Telangana have filled full tank petrol in Chandrasekhar Rao’s ambassador car. On what was a super Friday, KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s latest resignation drama was declared a superhit at the electoral box-office. This even though the `resign and recontest’ formula has been used by KCR several times in his decade-long career with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
In the past, the ploy of `losing to win’, by way of `sacrifice’ to attain more strength didn’t click, with the people of the region seeing through KCR’s game. But this time, KCR had brewed the T just right.
Coming just months after Andhra Pradesh was polarised on regional lines and the formation of the Srikrishna committee to study the contentious issue, nearly 65 per cent voters in 12 assembly constituencies in five districts turned up to say `We want Telangana’. With the TRS and the BJP the only two parties to have taken an unequivocal stand on statehood to Telangana, the endangered pink panther species was roaring once again. And pink slips were handed by the dozen to Congress and Telugu Desam candidates.
Contrary to the May 2009 results, when the TRS won just 10 of the 45 assembly seats it contested, forcing KCR to take moral responsibility and resign and allow himself to be persuaded, this time KCR’s hard work ahead of the 27th July exam paid off. What makes this whitewash noteworthy is that this came despite the TRS having a truck with the BJP in Nizamabad and their leaders campaigning together in several other constituencies. The lotus didn’t scare the minorities away.
Does this mean that the TRS can repeat this feat in the remaining 107 constituencies in the Telangana region, if elections were held tomorrow? Yes and No, depending on KCR’s assessment of his own steering skills.
While this victory will give a fillip to the TRS cadre and the party is also likely to gain from migratory birds from the TDP and the Congress, it will do well not to overestimate its own strength. A 100 per cent result plus picking up the Vemulawada seat is fantastic but KCR, the astute politician he is, will recognise that much of the verdict is an emotional vote for Telangana and not entirely for the TRS.
At the moment, jubiliant TRS workers point to the Congress and the TDP and joke, `For who the bell tolls’. No doubt, alarm bells are ringing for both the parties. The aam aadmi in Telangana did not extend his hand to the Congress nor did he trust Chandrababu Naidu, to hitch a ride on his bicycle. For both these parties, most dominant on the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh, the time has come to shed their wishy-washy attitude on bifurcation and come clean.
TDP leaders on Friday behaved like an ostrich with its head in the sand. As if the bypolls did not matter. Naidu himself muttered something like “we were all very busy with Babhli and couldn’t campaign”. It sounded like a `marriage at home so can’t come to work’ kind of excuse. And after Jaganmohan Reddy’s Sakshi TV put a `x’ mark over Naidu’s right eye (wickedly indicating that his Telangana eye had lost sight), the fencesitter TDP supremo changed the screenplay to a father and his two sons, implying as a father, he wouldn’t choose between Telangana and Seemandhra.
Contrary to TDP hope that Babhli would work some magic, it only poured cold Godavari water. None of the voters had an appetite for listening to Naidu’s tales of horror, likening the Maharashtra police to the Britishers. End result was the TDP even lost its deposit in many constituencies, a matter of shame for a party whose cadre strength in Telangana used to be a matter of envy.
The Congress got a zor ka jhatka, zor se lage, when its chief, Dharmapuri Srinivas bit the dust in Nizamabad. Here was a political heavyweight whose supporters initially tomtomed about how DS could be CM if he won. Realising Nizamabad has 12000 Vysya votes (the community to which K Rosaiah belongs) who wouldn’t relish the prospect, CM-aspirant was brought a notch down to DCM (deputy chief minister). But none of his efforts `paid’ off and DS lost to his BJP rival by 11981 votes. I wonder if they were all Vysya votes !
But no one is shedding tears for DS’s second downfall in 15 months. Everyone knows, it is just a matter of time, before the APCC chief is shown the door and the next few weeks will witness an ugly race to succeed him.
The real target in fact, will be Rosaiah. While the chief minister can smile now that the man from Nizamabad is no longer building castles in Hyderabad air, the Jagan camp is already loading its ammunition and asking why Rosaiah shouldn’t answer for why, as the commander-in-chief of his army, he did not even campaign in the byelections. The CM obviously calculated that staying away would absolve him of the disaster that almost everyone knew was waiting to happen.
But Jagan, though the thorn in Rosaiah’s throne, is also a red rag to many Congressmen from Telangana. One of them being bete noire Madhu Goud, MP from Nizamabad. To Jagan groupies who claim that not allowing YSR’s son into Warangal for his Odarpu yatra was a mistake, Goud counters that if Jagan had stepped into Telangana, all Congress candidates would have lost their deposit.
Polemics aside, the fact remains that post-YSR, the Congress does face serious questions on who its real leader with a pan-Andhra Pradesh appeal is. The answer is no one. The ruling party can ill-afford to continue batting with a night watchman, who doesn’t have the complete support of his team. Especially when the situation post 31st December 2010, irrespective of what the Srikrishna committee recommends, could throw Andhra Pradesh into chaos. The state needs a leader, whoever it is, who can control and more importantly, perceived to be able to control. It is for the Congress to launch a talent hunt within its ranks and soon.
The million dollar question is whether this 12/12 result will hasten the process of formation of Telangana. There will be now pressure from the Telangana Congressmen on the leadership in Delhi, to recognise and respect the verdict. For the sake of the party’s own political future, if not out of love for the people of Telangana. But don’t rule out an equal and opposite reaction from the Seemandhra Congressmen, Chiranjeevi and TDP’s yellow brigade.
Two, the Congress decision will depend largely on whether it is able to blunt KCR’s image. It will not want to be seen as granting statehood under pressure and definitely not allow anyone else to walk away with the credit. And it knows KCR is ready with his acceptance speech, when he receives the `Father of Telangana’ award.
Either way, Telangana’s super Friday has set the tone for churning in Andhra Pradesh’s political theatre. Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost !
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