August 19, the day Telangana will be under `house arrest’

By T S Sudhir
“Don’t spread rumours and panic,” K Chandrasekhar Rao gently admonished the media, asking them not to do anything to dissuade people of Telangana from taking part in the August 19 intensive household survey. (Read previous blog by T S Sudhir here)
On his part, the Telangana chief minister is leaving nothing to chance. Short of calling it house arrest, the government won’t make it easy for you to stir out of home. No bus, no auto will ply in the ten districts of the state, all government and private offices will be closed. So will be commercial establishments and educational institutions. Four crore Telanganites have been asked to be at home.
My colleague, a native of Telangana has a genuine concern and something that reflects the doubts over data privacy. “Should I declare my property details or not? If I do not declare the land I have in my village, isn’t it quite possible that it will be grabbed and because I did not declare it in the survey, the government of Telangana will tell me it is no longer yours,” is his dilemma. 
Though the column that would have revealed nativity has now been removed, after much public outrage, doubts persist that identifying the settlers (people from Andhra Pradesh) in Telangana is the prime objective. But fear not, because that cannot be identified with this survey. The Telugu Desam is however, doing its bit of mischief by leaking a video of someone who is identified as the PRO to the Telangana CM, who makes outrageous claims that settlers will be thrown out of Telangana after this survey.
The Telangana government has now said that taking part in the survey is optional and KCR has also clarified that revealing bank account numbers is optional. But what about lakhs of people, who fear they will be targeted if they do not reveal all information. Plus there is no guarantee of data privacy. When an unauthorised employee in the bank where you hold an account can unethically peep into your bank account and ask you the reason you have parked your funds there and suggest other financial options, where is the guarantee that only a few officers in responsible positions will have access to personal information about you.
Defenders of the Telangana government argue why this outrage was not there when Aadhaar demanded your bank account number. It wasn’t there for the simple reason that there was a clear linkage that was sought to be established between LPG reimbursement and Aadhaar card. The TRS government so far at least, has not spoken about any such financial linkage. Also if that was indeed the reason to demand bank account number, one account number would have sufficed, why ask for all of them. No one in the establishment has answered these queries satisfactorily.
P.S. The next time, you get a telemarketing call, asking you if you will like to buy a second AC, since you have only one, you know where they have got that info from. Or if you get a telemarketing call, suggesting better quality food for your dog, you know you are barking up the right tree.

Is Kalyan the `Pawan’ of change in Andhra Pradesh?


By T S Sudhir

Title of screening : Jana Sena
Cast : Pawan Kalyan
Running time : 105 minutes
Release date : 14 March 2014 
Screening at Novotel Hotel convention centre, Hyderabad
Rating : 2.5/5
If `Jana Sena’ were to be a film, it would get fantastic reviews: if the reactions of the two film journalists flanking me at the opening show was anything to go by, Pawan Kalyan has delivered a total paisa vasool film. The lady to my left spent more time clapping to the Power Star’s punch dialogues rather than taking down notes while the exuberant journalist to my right put finger to tongue to whistle incessantly instead of pen to paper.
In this mono act, Pawan gave a `I, me, myself’ performance. He was alone on stage, armed with a sheaf of papers, replete with punch dialogues, with liberal references to many of his films. Though Pawan has the reputation of having his heart in the right place, on Friday evening he came across as someone who had woken up one fine day and decided to criticise everyone else for the problems facing the country. Sample this : “Mr Rahul Gandhi, you have to learn from your grandmother how to lead the nation.”
pawan 1
This expensive production – the party was launched at an air-conditioned convention centre amidst 500 bouncers for security and barcoded passes for the nearly 5000 people who were invited – seemed aimed at retorting to the barbs aimed at him by different politicians. Didn’t someone tell Pawan that if trolling the Congress and TRS was his intention, all he needed was a handle on Twitter to do the same at zero cost?
So Jairam Ramesh became `Mountbatten’ for his role in the division of Andhra Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi and Robert Vadra got threatened and KCR’s daughter Kavitha chided for not revealing the source of the funds into her NGO, `Telangana Jagruti’. “I don’t give a damn” he screeched as he vowed to ensure the Congress did not win a single seat in Andhra Pradesh. “Congress hatao, Desh bachao” was his parting shot and in some part of the country, Narendra Modi would have chuckled. To borrow a line from Vidya Balan, it was “entertainment, entertainment, entertainment”. Though to be fair to Pawan, this was no Dirty Picture, the arrangements at the venue were neat.
With 19 films behind him, several of them superhits, this 42-year-old obviously knows how to hold the attention of the audience. So the film began with a bang, with him jogging on to the stage (I must admit I had imagined that he would emerge out of the smoke riding a bike), amidst an uproar from the assembled fans. Midway, he lapsed into flashback talking about his childhood in Nellore, a bit of song and a dose of mother sentiment (when will Tollywood get out of this hackneyed plot structure?). The audience at this stage was fairly quiet, waiting for the climax. And the hero did not disappoint, verbally bashing up the political `villains’. If only dialogues could win elections, Akshay Kumar would be PM.
Pawan’s entry into politics got everyone excited primarily because it highlighted mega cracks in Megastar Chiranjeevi’s family. Ironically, the Union minister of state for Tourism is also the campaign committee chairman of the party in Andhra Pradesh that his younger brother now seeks to demolish. Clearly Chiranjeevi is not able to get Pawan to toe his line. “Bhai, tum yahan sign karoge ya nahin?”
In political terms, Pawan Kalyan’s entry means different things to different people. The Congress is as good as dead in the 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh so flogging it is the easier thing to do. Given that the actor has vaguely ruled out contesting elections this time, all eyes are on who he extends a helping hand to. Sources say Chandrababu Naidu is keen on Pawan’s call sheet and may offer him a role in a TDP-Jana Sena co-production. It would also be sweet revenge for Naidu who holds Chiranjeevi responsible for spoiling his electoral chances in 2009 by launching his Praja Rajyam and eating into the anti-Congress vote. Naidu’s calculation is that Pawan could ensure the Kapu and youth votes come into the alliance kitty. 
On the streets, there would be few who would take this Friday release seriously. Being an aware citizen is one thing, being a responsible leader quite another. With his aloof, temperamental image, most do not think Pawan Kalyan is cut out for politics. Besides the manner in which his brother let down those who voted for him, hoping that he will emerge as an anti-Congress, anti-TDP political force in time to come, has meant there is a trust deficit with regards to Chiranjeevi’s thammudu (younger brother).
At the end of the 105 minutes, Pawan Kalyan did not give the impression that he was the new political star who had arrived on the Andhra scene. His motivational speech wouldn’t give Robin Sharma a run for his money either. His glitzy promos talked of a revolution, a world of equality, peace and brotherhood. All nice, positive, noble thoughts but all I want to know is – Who is the producer-director of this film?

Rajini, Mahesh or NTR?

By T S Sudhir

India’s costliest film, Robot releases on 1st October. Will it also be one of India’s biggest hits, given that it has superstar Rajinikanth in the lead in a double role. The Telugu film industry is circumspect, atleast as far as the Telugu dubbed version of Robot goes, pitted as the film is against Mahesh Babu’s Khaleja and junior NTR’s Brindavanam. Both films have budgets exceeding 40 crore rupees and release a week after Robot.

Rajini, Mahesh or NTR?

(video of my story aired on NDTV 24×7)

YSR 2003, Jagan 2010

By T S Sudhir

To me the drink looked far from yummy. “This is my breakfast. Would you like to have one too?” Jagan offered, indicating to the viscous, jaggery colour drink placed before him. I was meeting him at the house of a Congress leader in Palvancha town of Khammam district where he was having a stopover during his `Odarpu’ yatra.

“What is it?” I asked. “Don’t know,” he shrugged. The previous day had been really long and he had managed to hit the pillow only at 5:30 am to catch an hour or so of sleep. Circumstances sometimes force you to swallow an unpalatable, a bitter pill and Jagan knows he has a long way to go before he sleeps. So though visibly tired, he is ready for a new day.

Y S Jaganmohan Reddy is in the process of rebuilding his political career after the castles he built following dad YSR’s tragic death came crumbling down. The high-decibel campaign his supporters mounted for him in Hyderabad and Delhi, demanding that Jagan be crowned king, was seen as noise pollution by those whose ears it was meant for. Jagan’s image took a severe beating. He was seen more as the enfant terrible of Andhra politics.

So on April 9, seven months after YSR’s death, Jagan started on this six-day tour, to provide financial help to 642 families, that lost a near and dear one, reportedly unable to bear the trauma of YSR’s death. In the first leg, Jagan covered two districts of West Godavari and Khammam in six days, and each of these visits to some 80-odd homes were planned to the last detail. Jagan, unshaven with an unkempt mop of hair, would hug the family members, eat whatever was offered to him, even as freshly laminated and garlanded portraits of the deceased and YSR completed the picture. The picture of the son, very Kamalahasan’s `Thevar Magan’ like, promising to take care of those who `cared’ for his father.

”Our leader is still in our hearts. I am with you. I cherish your love and affection. You are all my family members,” was Jagan’s refrain at each one of these homes.

That morning, Jagan’s immediate concern was his hands. They were full of scratch marks, left by people wanting to reach out and touch him. I remembered Chiranjeevi’s first road tour in Srikakulam as a politician, when a small scratch on his hand became `breaking news’ on a couple of Telugu news channels. Jagan spent the next five minutes using antiseptic spray and put half a dozen band-aid strips to cover the fresh wounds.

Wounds have been many in the last few months. The biggest and most harsh of them, his dad’s tragic death on September 2, the trauma YSR’s loved ones were forced to live through for 24 hours, till his body was found deep inside Nallamalla forest. And then the campaign to make him CM went horribly wrong. Jagan’s immaturity as a politician came to the fore, when he could not read the Congress culture, where you have to proclaim not to be a contender to be a serious contender for the throne.

In that one month of September, Jagan realised what loss of power could do to people. Suddenly the industrialist son-turned-politician who everyone knew as the second most powerful man in YSR’s Andhra Pradesh, was reduced to a Congress dissident, who was thought responsible for all kinds of headaches for the 77-year-old Bhishmapitamah-like Konijeti Rosaiah.

So whether it was the Telangana turmoil, the attacks on Reliance retail outlets or the communal violence in Hyderabad, the needle of suspicion pointed to one man. “Y(e)S, it has to be Jagan in league with the Bellary brothers” went the whisper campaign. For a man who admitted to me in September that he is yet to make friends in the Congress in Delhi, it seemed he was left with only foes.

Jagan had been seeking permission for this yatra since October. Everytime it was refused, the leadership convinced it will create trouble for Rosaiah. Finally when the response was neither yes nor no, Jagan decided he will hit the road. His calculation, he had nothing to lose. After all, the number of his foes wouldn’t increase.

Having travelled a bit with YSR in the summer of 2003, when he walked 1400 km from Ranga Reddy to Srikakulam district, I could not but help notice the similarity. As the Khammam sun records 45 degrees plus, Jagan is aiming for his own place under the sun. He is no longer the rising sun that he was from 2004-09. Today his concern is to avoid being eclipsed.

So far, the yatra has not created too many ripples in Hyderabad. But the way each town Jagan visits, is being plastered with YSR and Jagan posters and cutouts, it looks like a matter of time. Once the Congress leadership realises that the reaching out has the not-so-hidden agenda of reopening his political account.

Supporters say Jagan is determined to fight it out. “He is in the same situation that YSR was in between 1989-1993 when he was a headache for the likes of PV and Kotla,” says one of them. “Does he feel victimised?” I ask. “How else is he supposed to feel,” comes the counter-question.

Jagan is keeping away from a formal interview. Can’t blame him. His every word, every pause, every comma could put a fullstop to his political career, especially with several Jagan-hating Congressmen and women who would love to read between his lines. That he is a binding factor within the Andhra Pradesh Congress is obvious. Because despite his pro-United Andhra Pradesh stance, Telangana leaders from the party, including ministers, are sharing screen space with him during the yatra.

I noticed Jagan was wearing the same white-and-blue stripes shirt that he was wearing when I spent a day with him in Pulivendula in Kadapa district exactly an year ago, when he was campaiging for both himself and his dad. I couldn’t help wondering how life had so dramatically changed in the last 365 days for this young cub. He, like all tigers, is not changing his `stripes’ but it surely will be quite a task for him to learn hunting in the Indian political landscape, without the Tiger of Kadapa to show the way.

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Divide and Rule

By T S Sudhir

A friend’s father would often boast that Telugu is the Italian of the East, one of the sweetest languages this side of the globe and that the best Carnatic music compositions are in Telugu because of the beauty and sound of the language. The last two weeks it has been used to heap abuse, not on non-Telugus, but on the `others’ within the Telugu family, to say I am better than you, my language is better than yours, conveniently forgetting that its regional variations have only made it more vibrant and enchanting.

Suddenly even journalist friends seemed to be becoming acutely conscious of which part of the state each one hailed from. And friendships and loyalties were being redrawn. A friend from Vijayawada chuckled as he told me, “The first ten days, pro-Telangana journalists had a field day, building up KCR’s fast and the Telangana agitation. Now when there was a strong reaction from the Coastal Andhra-Rayalseema side, they have no choice but to lie low.”

In what was a terrible low, lawyers at the Andhra Pradesh High court fought a pitched battle outside the courtroom last week. Advocates hailing from Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Warangal vs those from Krishna, Kadapa, Guntur and Kurnool. No one intervened to say `Order, Order’. And for all you know, the case would come up in another court, another day, very soon. But there will be no winners, only losers.

The events of the last two weeks in Andhra Pradesh have been the most tragic in recent history. A separatist politician goes on a fast-unto-death inside hospital, the media goes on an overdrive showcasing the vandalism and police action in two streets in Osmania University and rail roko incidents in a few districts and the Union government enacts `Freedom at Midnight’. P Chidambaram could well have been Pt Nehru Part 2.

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the rest of Andhra Pradesh sleeps, Telangana will awake to life and freedom.”

If PC thought the rest of Andhra Pradesh was sleeping, he was dreaming. What followed has been PC’s and the UPA’s government’s worst nightmare. Congress MLAs, MPs, MLCs and ministers from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema quick to stand up and revolt against the leadership. Their demand : status quo.

“All Telugu-speaking people should live together in a unified Andhra Pradesh,” says L Rajagopal, the MP from Vijayawada, who has emerged as the ringleader of the `We are for Unity’ chorus.

Rajgopal’s critics say he is just protecting his business interests in Hyderabad. They say he is flexing his financial muscle in full public view and media glare because he knows a unified Andhra Pradesh and more importantly, retaining Hyderabad, is critical to him remaining one of the richest MPs in Parliament. He is worth 299 crore rupees according to his affidavit before the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The same, pro-Telanganites say, goes for most of those MLAs and MPs who are opposing Telangana.

“Each one of them is protecting his or her own economic interest. Did even one of them stand up and make such a hue and cry when farmers and weavers were committing suicide in rural Andhra Pradesh,”commented my colleague.

T G Venkatesh, MLA from Kurnool, admits there is economic interest. He points out that an entire generation from Rayalseema that had invested in the erstwhile Madras state had to left Chennai and move to Hyderabad. “Why should we be uprooted twice? We have worked hard to develop the Hyderabad of today.”

Film producer Suresh Babu recalls how the entire Telugu film industry that used to operate out of Chennai was wooed by the Andhra Pradesh government to move to Hyderabad. Today all the film-related infrastructure is created by people like Suresh’s dad, Rama Naidu, Ramoji Rao, Krishna and Akkineni Nageswara Rao. But they are the ones who are anathema to TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao.

“My Andhra waale bhago slogan was not against the rickshawallah who has come to Hyderabad to earn a living. I want those guys who have grabbed land, made money by exploiting the poor of Telangana to be chased away,” he told me before he set out to Siddipet to undertake his fast-unto-death.

Which is why many filmmakers are looking east. To the city of destiny, Visakhapatnam. Going back to their roots in coastal Andhra would well be a homecoming for many of them.

“I don’t think many of us belonging to coastal Andhra would feel safe in a Hyderabad which is the capital of Telangana. Which is sad, because this city has been home to us for several decades now. But we cannot take chances when the potential rulers of Telangana are people with a separatist mentality,” an industrialist told me. And he did not wish to be quoted. Such is the fear factor.

In fact, Rajagopal’s Lanco group offices in Hyderabad have been attacked and vandalised several times by KCR’s men. He knows in a Telangana state that includes Hyderabad, ruled by parties like the TRS, the famous Hyderabadi tehzeeb will not be extended to Andhrites like him. Which is why he is going all out, including a hungerstrike, to ensure Hyderabad does not slip out of the hands of industrialists from the coast and Rayalseema. Staying hungry today is to ensure there’s enough in the tomorrow’s to come.

But even as agitations break out in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema, Telangana is quiet. “We have been promised by Sonia Gandhi and it is now for her to deliver on her promise,” says KCR’s nephew Harish Rao. For the moment, TRS leaders are waiting for the Congress to douse all the fires in its Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema camps. But when I ask the TRS if it is willing to wait for one or two years, pat comes a senior leader’s reply : “Aag laga denge”.

It is to stay away from this `Aag’ that investors have already ticked off Hyderabad from their list. If the leadership in Delhi thinks taking no decision will be the best decision now to cool tempers, it will be doing a huge disservice to Andhra Pradesh. It took several years of hard work, lobbying and persistence for Chandrababu and Rajasekhara Reddy to make Hyderabad an attractive investment destination and a truly global city. Post 9th December, that is beginning to sound like an adjective of the past.

The exuberance of the TRS leaders is already finding an echo in the cadre below and perhaps even some goons who see Andhra businessmen and factory owners with units in the Telangana of tomorrow as the new milch cows. Already protection money is being sought from factory owners by goons. A friend who owns a factory in the city’s outskirts confided he has been asked to part with five lakh rupees.

Most cite the dismal electoral performance of the TRS to say there is no sentiment for a separate Telangana. How the Grand alliance consisting of the TDP, TRS and the Left fought the elections together on the plank of statehood to Telangana. And yet the Congress, which under YSR, never said, “Yes we will give Telangana,” romped home with more seats than the TDP and TRS put together.

But then a huge number of Telanganites in the region have always aspired for a separate state. Who feel, despite being merged with the rest of Andhra in 1956, they were always treated as second-class citizens. They say people from Andhra and Rayalaseema cornered the bulk of the jobs which otherwise should go to the locals. “We may speak the same language, Telugu but the way we express is very different from those in Andhra. We are more rooted to the ground,” says Kavitha, KCR’s daughter.

The question no one answers is where were all these people in April-May 2009. If they wanted a state of Telangana more than anything else, why didn’t they give 119 out of 119 assembly seats in Telangana to Naidu and KCR. When the same Telangana chose to vote for a YSR, isn’t Sonia Gandhi now subverting the people’s mandate? That too, within just six months of the election and three months of YSR’s death.

But now as KCR says, the arrow has left the bow. It is no longer a situation of whether Telangana needs statehood or not. Sonia Gandhi has decided it will be. Andhra Pradesh is now left with dealing with an unhappy, messy and traumatic divorce. People’s minds and hearts have been divided. And the tribe of politicians is busy posturing, only to ensure their business and political interests are safe. I wonder how Sonia will manage to campaign in the non-Telangana areas after this. And as far as Naidu is concerned, he is trying to ride both the Telangana and the Andhra boats. I hope he knows how to swim.

Just as a child suffers the emotional scars when his parents go through a divorce, Hyderabad looks on helplessly as both Telangana and Andhra-Rayalseema fight for its custody. KCR says there can be no Telangana without Hyderabad. The rest of Andhra Pradesh says without Hyderabad, it will be just another agrarian state. Besides, crores of rupees will be needed to develop a Vijayawada or a Vizag into a state capital of international standards. Is the taxpayer’s money to be squandered away like that?

A third proposal is making Hyderabad into a Union territory, to be shared by Andhra and Telangana. KCR, the political expression of the Telangana movement, has vetoed the Chandigarh model. But as a citizen of a modern state capital of a big and powerful state, why should I be reduced to a resident of an Union territory? When a Delhi years ago, wanted to graduate to being a state from a UT, why should my Hyderabad be Draupadised?

The `successful’ campaign for Telangana has already ignited similar minds fighting for smaller states elsewhere. But what happens tomorrow, if in a future Telangana state, all the development takes place only in Warangal and Karimnagar. And the neglected district of Adilabad wants to be a separate state. Will we let them go?

An angry financial analyst asked what gives the right to Sonia Gandhi to cut Andhra Pradesh like a cake on her birthday and distribute it. Industrialist-turned-politician Sudhish Rambhotla says public opinion is not a few hundred people pelting stones, throwing stones or shouting slogans. If we have a time-tested democratic process of eliciting public opinion through elections every five years, then politicians also need to show the maturity to respect that public opinion.

This has been a story that has left me very disturbed and drained out. I moved to Hyderabad in 1995. I came here for just 3 years but the love affair with the city and this state that started then still continues. Which is why I now say I `belong’ to Andhra Pradesh, that this state is mine.

I have nothing against statehood to Telangana but it breaks my heart to see the crude manner in which the surgeon sitting in Delhi chose to sever the body into two. With everyone now asserting their regional identity, instead of growing, we have been turned into pygmies. Big is beautiful and also powerful. And power always threatens. A powerful Hyderabad, just like a powerful Mumbai or a powerful Lucknow will always be a threat to Delhi. The Britishers were known to divide and rule. 62 years on, we are doing the same.

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On the rocks

By T S Sudhir

“This is the last time, you may be interviewing me,” K Chandrasekhar Rao said with a dramatic flourish to journalists in Hyderabad last Thursday, just before he got into his Innova to go to Karimnagar.

KCR was to start his fast-unto-death in Siddipet from Sunday. The police would have none of that so they arrested him, bundled him inside Khammam sub-jail, where 250 prisoners shared space meant for 150. Having boasted he will be a Mahatma Gandhi, KCR decided to fast behind bars but by Monday evening, he realised following in the Mahatma’s footsteps is not really a cakewalk.

Setting Telangana on fire, in comparison, was a cakewalk. Between that Sunday and Monday, RTC buses, private vehicles, petrol bunks, shops were vandalised. I watched with horror as students at Osmania University in Hyderabad turned virtually into monsters, smashing the windscreens of every vehicle in sight. If they are the torchbearers of a Telangana state of tomorrow, I think Telangana would be ashamed of them. A state and a country needs citizens, not hooligans.

My colleague Uma said it was our failure that we as a society, have failed to teach them, show them a better way to protest. So much so that they think unless there is a law and order problem, no one will take notice. And political parties won’t react unless there is an electoral crisis, meaning they are at risk of losing an election.

Verbal hooliganism is what KCR himself indulged in, in the period leading up to 29th November. Sample this tirade against the media, asking them to support his “just cause” if they wanted to function in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana.

“I warn those media houses that are lampooning me and the movement. Be careful. The attack by the Shiv Sena would be nothing in comparison to the treatment we will mete out to them.”

KCR apparently forgot that decorum demands you do not talk ill of those who have passed away. Yet he did not spare YSR. “YSR died in Nallamalla forest (earlier a naxal base) because he ordered the killing of so many naxals.” Sharp invectives were reserved for his bete noire, Chandrababu Naidu as well.

A couple of weeks back, he growled, “Jago Telangana wale, Bhago Andhra wale” (Wake up people of Telangana, run away people of Andhra), demanding that people from coastal Andhra region had no business to stay on in the ten districts of Telangana. When his tirade drew criticism, he clarified he was targetting only those industrialists and film personalities who had amassed land in the region. Forgetting that the law of the land gives each one of us citizens the right to live and work in any part of India. Who is KCR to issue or deny visa into Telangana?

No one denies that there is a pro-Telangana state sentiment among the people of the region. Everytime I have travelled into rural Telangana, I have heard people articulate it passionately. There are issues of culture and identity. There is a strong feeling of being wronged, of being denied jobs, not getting a fair share of the development pie. The region has remained backward for years, while the neighbouring coastal Andhra region is perceived to have witnessed prosperity.

But is KCR the vehicle to achieve Telangana, people aren’t so sure. As someone remarked in jest during the election campaign, “Even KCR does not believe he is the right vehicle. His party’s symbol is the ambassador car but he doesn’t travel in one himself.”

To his credit, he is the only leader in the region who has managed to bring back the Telangana issue centrestage. Even now, though electorally discredited to a large extent, it is his initiative to go on a hunger-strike that has brought so many pro-Telangana voices on to television channels.

But has his leadership inspired a struggle that can democratically crystallise into something meaningful for the people of Telangana. Or has it simply provoked and stoked fires and passions, without giving them a legally acceptable direction of purpose?

Intelligence agencies piece together the series of developments leading up to 29th November. They say TRS leaders tried hard to mobilise support among students, particularly in Osmania University and Kakatiya University in Warangal, knowing fully well that the passionate among the students group could be provoked adequately.

More worrying are reports now that a significant number of Maoist sympathisers have infiltrated into some of the front organisations of the Telangana movement, that may or may not be directly connected to the TRS. Intelligence agencies suspect it is these elements that fomented trouble and much of the violence. If that is indeed true, KCR may have knowingly or unknowingly, paved the way for the return of the Maoists into urban pockets in Andhra Pradesh. And that means turning the clock back by a decade on Maoist violence.

A senior TRS leader told me on Saturday, “KCR hopes to gain politically through this fast because there is some amount of confusion within the Congress post-YSR. Also having won just 10 assembly and 2 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 election, no one takes us seriously these days.” Realising he had let out too much, he quickly added it was his personal opinion, not the party’s.

Even in its best electoral year of 2004, in an alliance with the Congress, TRS won just 26 seats in the assembly. In many constituencies, TRS candidates lost to Congress rebels. KCR’s endeavour has always been to emerge as the tallest spokesperson of the people of the region. But with every by-election that he forced on the people, with every fast that he withdrew within 48 hours, with every abuse he hurled on his political opponents, his stature only diminished.

When NDTV predicted in its exit poll in May this year that the TRS would win only two Lok Sabha seats, KCR’s Man Friday called me to warn : “You guys have predicted two seats. I think we will win six. So be prepared for the consequences.” I haven’t seen him since the day of the results.

The next time, KCR gives a speech and I admit he is a wonderful orator, let him not say `I will sacrifice my life for Telangana’. Because instead of claps, he may only hear rude sniggers.

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His father’s son

By T S Sudhir

(first published on on 11 September, 2009)

It was a hot April afternoon deep inside the countryside of Pulivendula in Kadapa district. I was travelling with Y S Jaganmohan Reddy as he campaigned for himself for the Kadapa Lok Sabha seat and for dad YSR for Pulivendula assembly constituency. The YSR family, particularly Jagan’s grandfather, the late Y S Raja Reddy, was said to have been a terror in these parts. So I was a little surprised to see so many youth fearlessly approach Jagan to tell him their problems. Some making a request, others demanding, angry.

“Paike ra”, which means “come up” (to my vehicle) was a standard Jagan response that stayed with me that day. Anyone with a problem would be asked in colloquial Rayalaseema Telugu to climb on to his vehicle and there Jagan would give him a hug, cup his cheeks in his hands and promise that his concerns will be taken care of. Was this an act for the camera or a 36-year-old politician, fighting his first election, genuinely trying to reach out, I wondered.

The gesture of hugging, holding hands to connect with the people he meets, comes naturally to Jagan. That was also our experience when I and Uma met Jagan this week to offer our condolences. As I saw Jagan meet the young and old, men and women, who came to meet him, he conveyed a lot through his body language. If it is an act he has perfected, he must be a very good actor.

When was the last you saw YSR, I asked. “At the breakfast table that morning,” he said. “I do not eat breakfast but I was with him while he ate.” Jagan looked down, almost as if remembering YSR munching his favourite salads. Over one such breakfast during the election campaign in April, YSR had told me :“I always eat a heavy breakfast. And salads are good for health. They add fibre.” The doctor in YSR knew what was good for YSR, the chief minister with a demanding schedule.

“I will fulfil his last wish. He spoke just a week back about winning 41 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2014,” said Jagan. His voice quivered but his fist was clenched. It was clear he wants to channelise his personal loss into a political weapon.

“I want to restart the `Rachabanda’ programme, that was so dear to my dad.” YSR died when he was travelling to Chittoor for the `Rachabanda’ programme, that involved making surprise visits to villages and knowing from villagers firsthand what they thought of government schemes and evolving ways to improve the delivery mechanism.

“You should in fact, go to the same Anupalle village where YSR was headed that day so that it shows there is continuity,” I suggested.

“Yes, I will. There is so much work that my dad began that I want to finish.”

But all these are plans. Jagan’s dreams. Whether he undertakes that 600 km journey from Hyderabad to Anupalle will depend on Sonia Gandhi. And so far, as I write this, selective leaks from Delhi indicate Jagan will not be made CM. Atleast not yet. Officially, there is a deafening silence from 10, Janpath. Meanwhile, chief minister K Rosaiah goes about business as usual and there is no word on the CLP meeting. He does not say it so many words, but the suspense is frustrating Jagan.

“How can the high command ignore Jagan when he has the support of 152 out of 154 Congress MLAs,” asks one of his very close aides. “Was YSR not one of Sonia Gandhi’s most trusted and dependable men? Why shouldn’t Jagan get a chance?” they argue.

It is perhaps this belligerent attitude that has spoilt Jagan’s case. He is being seen as a young man, too much in a hurry. Accused of assuming what was dad’s was automatically his. To climb the ladder in the Congress, you need subtle and forceful canvassing. Not the very vocal and the threatening kind.

Those who were trumpeting Jagan’s cause, in their overenthusiasm, ended up creating a commotion. So the right noises were not heard in the right places. Instead those who were working against him managed to plant anti-Jagan stories more effectively, portraying him as a businessman who made his millions while his dad was ruling Andhra.

Several SMSes are doing the rounds. One of them sent to me reads like this : `The Bellary brothers – saffron in Karnataka and secular in AP run the largest mining company with YSR’s son as their partner. Vast illegal mining and criminal trespass into areas deemed inviolate. They support Yeddurappa and Jagan Reddy as CM candidates.”

“Will he accept a ministry at the Centre?”

His close aides say `no’. Jagan also knows it is now or perhaps never. “It is here that I will be and perform,” he indicates pressing the sofa with his index finger.

But to make a mark in the city of the Charminar, you need powerful and influential friends in the city of the Qutab Minar. Jagan’s camp admits he does not have friends in Delhi who can project him as a man who can hold his own, be a befitting son to his father in the eyes of the Congress leadership.

This blog is not an attempt to make a case for Jagan. Nor a justification for how Jagan made his money or built his media empire. But then no one is naive enough to think that politics and money do not have an umblical connection. Sadly, it has virtually become a universal truth that need not be stated any more.

I must also clarify that I have nothing against K Rosaiah. In fact, I have known Mr Rosaiah for much longer and admire him as one of the most experienced politicians, who by the sheer weight of the years he has spent as minister with five chief ministers, would easily qualify to sit in the chief minister’s chair.

Jagan’s supporters have created an awkard situation presumably for him as well as for Sonia Gandhi. She may not want to put the 36-year-old on the CM’s chair because of her apprehensions relating to his temperament, his ability to take on an aggressive Chandrababu Naidu, his connections with business lobbies and of course, lack of administrative and political experience. Yet, ignoring the majority opinion of the MLAs would be to the negate the spirit of a chief minister being elected by a majority of his legislators.

Efforts, I am told, are on to rein in the MPs and the MLAs and ask them to stop their Jagan bhajan. And the more the Congress leadership drags its feet on the CM issue, the more Jagan’s support base may erode.

If Sonia finally vetoes Jagan’s candidature and decides to maintain status quo, the situation will be similar to what happened in the case of another Telugu bidda, the late P.V.Narasimha Rao. Like PV in 1991, Rosaiah also opted out of electoral politics this time due to health reasons and became a MLC. And like PV became PM, Rosaiah got the top job in Andhra. But he may have to read the riot act if his ministers act truant or worse, openly defy his authority. Being a Vysya in a Reddy-dominated party would be another headache he will have to deal with. His best bet would be to make a point with his administrative abilities.

Jaipal Reddy has reportedly ruled himself out of the race. In any case, he is seen as a member of the Dilli Durbar who does not know the recipe to prepare Hyderabadi biryani. PCC chief D Srinivas and Renuka Chowdhary count themselves out by virtue of having lost the elections in 2009.

NTR’s daughter Purandareswari could emerge as the dark horse, with a helpful nod from Rahul Gandhi. The argument being put forth that Chandrababu Naidu would find it difficult to attack his sister-in-law. Huh? Naidu who dethroned his pa-in-law in a palace coup, isn’t likely to hold back any punches for NTR’s daughter, particularly if he is smelling power. Moreover, being a Kamma CM in a CLP that has just four Kamma Congress MLAs would mean the caste equation will be ranged against Purandareswari. Yes, Andhra could get its first woman chief minister. That will certainly be some achievement.

In the late 80s and early 90s, YSR was always seen as a rebel within the state Congress when the party was ruled by the likes of PV Narasimha Rao, Kotla Vijaybhaskara Reddy and N Janardhan Reddy. It needed the PV era to end and Sonia to take over for YSR to emerge as the tallest leader from the Deccan. Will a negative reply turn Jagan into YSR part 2? That’s a risk the Congress cannot afford to take.

Like his parents, Jagan too is deeply religious. “God is on our side. Now even dad is with him up there,” he says.

The young man knows it is this time or perhaps never. He wants to come up now. “Paike ra” is really the slogan for this cub from Kadapa.