By M H Ahssan / INN Bureau
Granting statehood will help the party curtail Jagan’s influence, but it could deepen the fissures within the Congress. With the 2014 polls looming large, the Congress has started making the right noises on the creation of Telangana. Party general secretary Digvijaya Singh’s first step after he took over as Andhra Pradesh in-charge has been to announce the decision to create a roadmap for the possible bifurcation or trifurcation of the state. However, the move — being vouched by Telangana Congress leaders as being final and decisive — has opened a minefield of future political ramifications.
On the ground, there is hope for ending uncertainty and confusion, which has lasted as long as the Telangana movement itself, while leaders of all political parties are mulling over the consequences, both political and economic.
Apart from the fate of Hyderabad — where businessmen and politicians from Seemandhra have invested thousands of crores — the votebank and electoral developments continue to be major factors.
With the remaining Congress MPs from Telangana (two out of 10 have already quit the party) making veiled threats to quit, and openly warning the party that it would be “destroyed” in Telangana if inaction continued, the party is in a peculiar but familiar soup. For one, granting a separate state threatens to split the party wide open.
On the day Digvijaya landed in Hyderabad to announce the decision to create a Telangana roadmap, he was in for a surprise when a group of Seemandhra leaders met him to present a memorandum demanding a united Andhra Pradesh. Since then, party leaders from Telangana have begun openly criticising and throwing muck at their counterparts hailing from Seemandhra.
“Where were these leaders (Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and PCC president Botsa Satyanarayana) in 2004? They did not speak up then. Now they are speaking up because of ulterior motives,” says Madhu Yakshi, Congress MP from Nizamabad. Yakshi adds that businessmen- politicians with huge investments in Hyderabad are conspiring against the creation of Telangana. “Unlike the BJP and the TDP, the Congress high command has always been consistent on Telangana. Whoever has changed their stance on Telangana have lost the elections. Even I won because I went with a pro-Telangana slogan. My hope is that Madam’s (Sonia Gandhi) stand will remain the same.”
But Satyanarayana begs to differ. “If you take into consideration the welfare of the state and its people, naturally a united Andhra is the logical choice,” he says. “If a decision is taken keeping in mind the political gains, then it’s wrong. That said, as a party, we (leaders from Seemandhra) will support whatever decision the high command takes. Telangana MPs may say a lot of things. Those are their personal opinions. We don’t want to see the state or the city (Hyderabad) divided.”
A senior functionary in the state Congress reveals the eventuality. “We mulled over an economic package for Telangana for a long time,” he says on the condition of anonymity. “But Telangana MPs are not relenting. We will give Telangana. We will go for bifurcation before 2014. That’s our big ace for the Lok Sabha polls.”
As for the other parties, they are waiting for the Congress’ move with anxiety and eagerness. The anxiety arises from losing the handful of seats that the TDP and the YSR Congress hoped to gain in Telangana, which would shift to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the Congress. Minor losses notwithstanding, the parties are also hoping to polarise the contest between themselves by ousting the Congress, by capitalising on a blame game in their political-speak in the rest of Andhra Pradesh.
“The crisis is a Congress creation,” says YSR Congress leader Mysura Reddy. “As per the Constitution, when it comes to the division of a state, the power lies with the Centre. The Congress is destroying the state by letting confusion prevail, hampering development.”
TDP general secretary Varla Ramaiah shares the same view. “If the Congress really decides, we cannot stop them,” he says. “They are creating a massive fight. The problem is with Madam Sonia. Indecision is a big problem. Our move is going to be determined by the particulars of bifurcation that the Congress decides on.”
For its part, the Congress too is taking some risks. A lot of hints have been dropped about going for the Rayala Telangana option, which would include two Rayalaseema districts (Kurnool and Anantapur) in the Telangana map. Erstwhile ally, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, seems to be the only party that is ready to accept this arrangement.
According to political observers, this move is aimed at containing Jaganmohan Reddy’s influence in the coming polls — the former Kadapa MP and YSR Congress chief is expected to sweep Rayalaseema and some parts of coastal Andhra. Expectedly, five YSR Congress MLAs resigned on 7 July as the news came in on the possible formation of Rayala Telangana.
The Congress also seems to be wooing members of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), which is more popular with students and youth. A JAC leader told INN on the condition of anonymity that a senior minister had approached the committee to strike a deal.
Krishank, a popular student leader of the JAC at Osmania University, resents the toxic politicisation of the Telangana issue. “When we met Digvijaya Singh, he told us to go home and tell our people that there is good news. In a day’s time, they changed their stand. They have sustained the drama and doublespeak for the past several decades. Why cannot Rayalaseema be a separate state?” he asks. “Several politicians from the Congress, YSR Congress, TDP and BJP are entrepreneurs. The only issue for them is about Hyderabad. The Telangana struggle is primarily about emotions. We are trying to protect Telangana from these leaders who are plundering our state. The people will give them a fitting answer.”
These sentiments are giving sleepless nights to members of the Congress high command. They fear losing the state completely, just like Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. With 119 Assembly seats and 17 Lok Sabha seats, Telangana will play a big role in shaping the party’s fortunes in 2014.
According to party sources in New Delhi, Telangana will be “given, but at a time that will benefit the party politically”. But there are a couple of riders too.
Defence Minister AK Antony has been given the charge of looking into the political ramifications of Telangana. He will have to see the other demands for a separate state and how viable they are. Will the Congress listen to those demands or will it have to go for a State Reconstitution Commission? Antony is also in-charge of the party’s pre-poll alliances and will have to present his report on the various permutations and combinations.
As for Rayala Telangana option, the decision will also be shaped by the Centre’s concern regarding the Maoists reestablishing themselves in the Telangana region and prevailing as they did in the 1990s. Antony will be looking at whether an internal security crisis could crop up if Telangana is created.
As the time of going to press, more than 750 BSF personnel had been deployed in Hyderabad in anticipation of fresh protests over Telangana.