By T S Sudhir
“If you people had not resigned, we could have discussed. Now things are no longer in my hands. It is now with the Speaker.” This is what Pranab Mukherjee told Telangana MPs who met him on Wednesday two days after having submitted their resignations.
The MP who shared these details with me, said the mood turned despondent. Almost helpless. And as a parting shot, Pranab da, drawing from his experience of having seen several autumns in Indian politics, gave the MPs a piece of advice.
“Please have a meeting with your friends from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Any decision on the future of Andhra Pradesh has to be congenial. If you want, I can facilitate a tripartite meeting. But please remember, no decision can be taken immediately as we need to get more inputs.”
The Telangana MPs, MLAs, ministers and MLCs thought the one hundred-odd resignations would jolt Indraprastha and force a decision on Telangana. Instead, as one of them in a moment of self-deprecating humour joked, they have been hit by Delhi Belly, forcing them to Bhaag a la DK Bose.
This despite the MPs making a presentation saying the party will go into 2014 elections fighting anti-incumbency of ten years and if it gives Telangana, a good 14-15 seats can land in its kitty, thanks to the goodwill.
But the leadership isn’t quite buying that line. And this is why I think it isn’t.
If YSR was alive and the CM of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the Congress would have fought the elections under his leadership. With the anti-incumbency factor, there was no way he would have delivered 33 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress kitty. The number at an optimistic best, would have whittled to 20.
Now look at what happens if Congress does not give Telangana. It loses atleast 15 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana straightaway. But if it can try and contain the Jagan factor in Seemandhra, it can try and win atleast 12-15 of the 25 seats in the other two regions, harping on the fact that it kept the state united. So in the worst case scenario, it is a loss of about 5-8 seats.
Whereas if Telangana is granted, it opens a Pandora’s box in several other states, which will mean fire-fighting in regions like Gorkhaland (Mamata is reportedly keen on status quo, her public posturing notwithstanding), Vidarbha and Bundelkhand.
Then there is the KCR factor. Congressmen in Delhi say the TRS leader will walk away with all the credit and the votes, which means it will be Advantage TRS in Telangana and Advantage Jagan + Naidu in Seemandhra. The party is also not willing to take KCR at his word that he will merge his party with the Congress. They point to his earlier utterances where he has not spoken of the High command in glowing terms.
But it is not as if all hope is lost for Telangana. The Congress core committee is apparently divided over the issue but even those in favour of granting Telangana have no solutions to offer on the future of Hyderabad. A huge concern is the safety of people from other regions who stay on in Hyderabad in the event of formation of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital.
The Congress is also keen to factor in Jagan’s stand on Telangana. So long as he remains a fence-sitter on the issue, the Congress will give him company there.
What the Congress is clear about is that it will not take any decision in a hurry. Its leaders in Delhi say the party has had to pay a price for pressing the panic button on December 9. So any attempt to pressurise 10 Janpath into a decision is unlikely to yield dividends.
Sources reveal the UPA government in February had finalised a special financial package for Telangana but the Kiran Kumar Reddy persuaded it not to announce it till the Budget session got over. The reasoning exposed lack of Chanakyaneeti in the state leadership.
The problem with the Congress has been it never had a Plan B post YSR. Rosaiah at that stage seemed the best bet and later a Reddy to counter Jaganmohan Reddy was thought of as the best gameplan but it backfired with Jagan revolting and becoming a bigger, more public headache. President’s Rule will be the last option, not the Plan B.
Nothing is likely to happen on the resignations either. I am given to understand that the Speaker’s office will rule that the resignations happened because the MPs and MLAs were constantly being pressurised by pro-Telangana groups and therefore invalid because they were given under duress and not under free will. The figleaf of resignations, however, give the MPs and MLAs the visa to tour their constituencies once again.
As things stand now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Andhra Pradesh. From all accounts, Sonia Gandhi is still searching for the switch. The state will therefore have to live with this procrastination, which will mean more bandhs, more rail rokos, more political drama, more unrest. And of course, needless to add, MLAs who think they have done their bit by giving in their resignation letter.
And did anyone say Government of Andhra Pradesh? Where is it?