By T S Sudhir
If senior Congress leader P Shankar Rao has his way, an employee working at Hyderabad airport would in the near future mention his address as : `Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, Sonia Telangana state’. Taking sycophancy to a new low, Rao who is the MLA from Secunderabad Cantonment, has demanded that the new state of Telangana be named after Sonia Gandhi.
Not only that. Rao also plans to build a temple for Sonia Gandhi in his constituency, for which he has requested for land from the authorities. Other plans in his head include constructing a Telangana Talli (Telangana mother) statue, whose face will resemble Sonia Gandhi.
On the face of it, Rao is not breaking new ground. In fact, quoting an RTI query, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu this month pointed out that the Nehru-Gandhi family names were used for 450 different schemes, projects and institutions. In what is a fascinating break-up, 12 central and 52 state schemes, 28 sport tournaments and trophies, 19 stadia, five airports and ports, 98 educational institutions, 51 awards, 15 fellowships, 15 national sanctuaries and parks, 39 hospitals and medical institutions, 37 other institutions, chairs and festivals and 74 roads, buildings and places are named after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Surely, unlike what William Shakespeare believed, there’s a lot in a name.
In Andhra Pradesh, districts have been named after leaders. Like Prakasam district was named after T Prakasam, the first chief minister of Andhra state. Ranga Reddy district was named after K V Ranga Reddy, former deputy CM. More recently, Kadapa district was renamed after Y S Rajasekhara Reddy as YSR Kadapa district. So why not a new state, is Shankar Rao’s logic.
But what Rao does not realise is that by making such a preposterous suggestion, he is mortgaging the self-respect of the region. Telangana has a rich cultural history. It was in 1324 AD when the first forays were made by Mohammed Bin Tughlak and Riyas-ud-din Tughlak of the Delhi Sultunate into the Deccan. They conquered a place near present-day Warangal and they named the place as Mulk-i-Tilinga. This is the first historical evidence of the word `Telangana’. It also seems pretty accurate as it means the `Telugu speaking area’. They also minted coins in Mulk-i-Tilinga and documents show that Sultan Qutbudin Mulk, who founded the Qutubshahi dynasty, was the first Governor of Telangana in 1495.
Congress leaders from Telangana rule out any chance of the suggestion being implemented. “But Shankar Rao has scored a big point in the 10 Janpath durbar,” says a leader who has known Rao closely for close to 40 years. “The people who matter will be very happy and that will help Rao politically as he has been in the wilderness ever since his fallout with chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.” After it is Shankar Rao’s DK Barooah moment (Remember `Indira is India, India is Indira?)
But one only wishes Rao also took some time out to wander around his constituency and bother about improving civic amenities. The roads in Secunderabad cantonment could give the moon a complex and are a motorist and pedestrian’s nightmare. The footpaths have been taken over by land grabbers to set up shops and sanitation is a huge issue. If Rao focused on addressing these problems, he has a better chance to get re-elected in 2014.