By T S Sudhir
If Justice Srikrishna is Lord Krishna and P Chidambaram is Arjuna on the battleground of Andhra Pradesh, you can be reasonably sure the Union Home minister will follow the two-volume Bhagvad Gita of 2010 to the last full stop. Which means his eyes will be fixed on somehow ensuring Option 6 is implemented despite the political price his party, the Congress may have to pay in the Telangana region. Arjuna too had to, much against his wishes, kill Bhishma Pitamah at Kurukshetra, remember.
Option 6 states recommends keeping Andhra Pradesh united by “simultaneously providing definite constitutional, statutory measures for the socio-economic development and political empowerment of Telangana region and creation of statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Council”. This the committee feels is the most “workable option in the given circumstances and in the best interest of the social and economic welfare of the people of the three regions”.
For all of the UPA government’s efforts to make it appear that any decision on Telangana will be the decision of all the political parties and by extension, the people of the Andhra Pradesh, everyone knows the political decision has to be taken by the Congress High command. After all, most people believe, the mess the state finds itself in today, is largely due to the hurriedly-drafted statement on the midnight of December 9, 2009 and the subsequent flip-flop.
What are its options?
Not giving Telangana would mean a certain electoral defeat in most pockets of the region. It got a taste of that when it failed to win a single seat in the byelections to 12 assembly seats last year. Even its state chief D Srinivas was mauled by the BJP candidate in Nizamabad despite the heavyweight politician moving heaven, earth and Telangana to ensure his win.
In fact, ever since the agitation got reignited last year, Congress leaders have found it difficult to travel around in the Telangana region especially with people demanding that the party come clean on its stand on statehood to the region. Pressure mounted on the High command has not yielded results since there is an equal and opposite reaction from the elected representatives of the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, giving an 180 degrees different take on the Telangana issue.
Insiders in the Congress say the concern of the Seemandhra Congressmen is not out of place. They are dealing with a threat who goes by the name of Y S Jaganmohan Reddy. Ever since he quit the Congress, Jagan has been making moves to strengthen his base by touring the districts extensively. While critics may carp that people are flocking to see YSR’s son and that crowds are never quite an accurate barometer of a politician’s potential, Congressmen admit he will damage the Congress even if he does not make it on his own.
And in this calculation if you grant statehood to Telangana, the Congress may as well forget about winning in Seemandhra. And even in Telangana, it will be K Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS which will be seen as the architect of the state and not the Congress. The BJP, at present a party of little relevance in Andhra Pradesh, will gain significantly as well.
TRS leaders say they will merge the party with the Congress once Telangana becomes a state, but Congressmen say they will be fools to take KCR at his word.
So granting Telangana could mean losing in all the three regions. Politically, suicidal for the Congress in a state which delivered it 33 Lok Sabha MPs in May 2009. Even historically speaking, Andhra Pradesh has most of the times stayed with the Congress, including in its worst year of the post-Emergency election in 1977. Then while the entire country let down Indira Gandhi, Andhra Pradesh elected 41 Congress candidates out of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats. The 42nd MP from the state was Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, who went on to become the President of India.
What happens if it doesn’t grant Telangana? It loses heavily in Telangana but in the other two regions, it can hope to give a fight to Jagan and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam. If Kiran Kumar Reddy is allowed to function and perform as well, maybe a serious focus on development projects in Telangana could yield electoral dividends as well. It is a `maybe’ but it is atleast a `maybe’.
The Congress can then hope the Telangana sentiment wouldn’t be as strong as it is now, when elections take place in 2014 and people may vote on the development agenda instead of pure sentiment. Kiran can hope to be Andhra Pradesh’s Nitish Kumar. Though there is a good chance he could be Andhra’s Rahul Gandhi, whose report card in Bihar read 4/243 assembly seats.
Which is why the Telangana parties are in a hurry. Telangana activists admit reigniting passions this time is proving a bit difficult given that the people of the region are a bit confused by the Srikrishna googly and still trying to figure out if the eminent former Judge did or did not recommend statehood to Telangana. The media blackout of violent agitations is also preventing reaching out to more people in one go.
Therefore, political pressure is the only way out, they aver. Unless KCR pulls a `fast’ rabbit out of his hat.
TRS sources say they are putting pressure on atleast 5 Congress MPs and 20 MLAs from Telangana to resign. They are also banking on Jagan doing a big show in Delhi on January 11, where atleast 3 MPs and some 20 MLAs are expected to turn up. Will the Congress dare to initiate disciplinary action against so many of its own, without endangering its government in Hyderabad?
A mid-term poll over the Telangana issue in the region is KCR’s best bet now. Riding on the sentiment, he would hope he can be either king or kingmaker in Hyderabad and then force the issue. For that he needs the Congress MPs and MLAs to play ball. Will they, after the lessons on good behaviour they received in Pranab ki paathshaala earlier this week?
(You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com)