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Political Zug Zwang - Naresh Nunna - The Sunday Indian
 
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Sunday, December 17, 2017
 
 

Political Zug Zwang

 

With a classic U-turn on bifurcation, it could be advantage Congress in Andhra Pradesh. Naresh Nunna reports
NARESH NUNNA | Issue Dated: March 9, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Zug Zwang | Indira Gandhi | Telangana | Jharkhand | Uttarakhand | Chhattisgarh |
 

Zug zwang is a position in chess which is designed to keep the opponent at a disadvantage as he is forced to make a move which invariably ends up making his position worse. Opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh (and elsewhere in the country) have been forced into this Congress Zug zwang with the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and much against their wishes are now forced to play the ruling party's game.

This when India’s oldest party has never been a votary of small states. “The Congress has never been in favour of smaller states. The division of provinces on linguistic basis was supported by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His daughter Indira Gandhi opposed separate Telangana tooth and nail,” former Rajyasabha member and political analyst, Sivaji Yalamanchili told The Sunday Indian.

Congress ideologues have always debated against the idea that ‘smaller states make for better governance’, a position consistently backed by the BJP which created Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000. “Owing to its vested political interests, Congress has pursued the cause of Telengana’’, Yalamanchili concludes.

If the bifurcation of Andhra was feared to spark off similar demands from other parts of the country, it has not. The new Congress position on smaller states has not kindled any hopes of similar agitations springing up in Maharashtra, Assam and West Bengal.

Political analysts also say that the decades-long aspiration of a separate Telengana state was consistently defied by the Congress and intermittent agitations for a separate state were ‘managed’ by political and palace intrigues. Thus far the Congress saw no benefit of smaller states; now it does.

In any case, the issue of bifurcation of Telengana from a united Andhra Pradesh had been a long one with the movement witnessing many ebbs and tides.

The present Telengana agitation has its roots in seeds sown by that wily old Telugu former Congress chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy or YSR, as he was known, who prompted a delegation of 40 MLAs from the Telengana region to New Delhi in an ostensible show of strength in 2004. That became the launching pad, a turning point in favour of a new state.

  Later, the Congress aligned with K Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR of the Telengana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), with a clear mention in its election manifesto calling for a separate state. Analysts in Hyderabad believe that KCR was used for local political gains. KCR is a long player in the demand for a separate state and has used every forum to advocate the cause of Telengana.

Before floating his regional TRS with the sole aim of achieving Telangana, KCR was in Telugu Desam Party (TDP) where he was treated rather lightly and casually by N Chandrababu Naidu, TDP supremo in his days as chief minister during the NDA regime.

After floating his regional party, KCR with his proficiency in Urdu and Hindi, besides English, projected himself and his ‘cause’ successfully, particularly in north India. On this one single point he outwitted and outscored both YSR and Naidu.

As a Congress ally, KCR was included into the UPA government with the shipping ministry as his portfolio. It was not easy because UPA chair person Sonia Gandhi was in a Catch 22 position as far as DMK supremo M Karunanidhi and his nominee T R Balu were concerned who were keen on the particular portfolio.

KCR, who was born in a land-locked state turned out to be understanding and volunteered to give up the portfolio. Accordingly, TR Balu was given shipping while labour went to KCR. Sonia was so pleased with this gesture and in a hail of good wishes she promised Telengana to him.

After this crucial phase of getting Sonia Gandhi’s support and backing, KCR got into the campaign mode: he summoned supporters from different sections of the society in Telengana, including intellectuals. In this he got a lot of backing from a wide range of supporters – from Prof Jaya Sankar, considered father of the Telengana movement to the support of veteran backward caste leader Konda Lakshmana Bapuji; he met and interacted with academician-turned social leader Kodandaram and the CPI led by state secretary Narayana as well as the Naxalites who have always backed Telengana. KCR managed the support of industrial and business houses amidst reports that NRI money also coming into TRS coffers.

After the sudden demise of Congress’s one-man army YSR, then also the state chief minister, the demand for Telengana came up afresh in 2009, when KCR decided to go on fast.

These political machinations had borne fruit and students became involved in street politics, one sure sign that their voices would be heard loud and clear. The Osmania University campus, Hyderabad and Kakatiya University, Warangal turned into hubs of agitating Telengana youth and the cannon fodder required for fueling demands for a smaller state.

As a retaliatory measure, the government through the police indulged in heavy suppression. The alleged highhanded behaviour of some senior police officers fueled the fire further, which reached a point of extreme provocation with the suicides of innocent but emotionally charged young men.

The self-immolation of well-educated Srikantha Chary in broad day light made every Telengana citizen reassess their association with their coastal Andhra counterparts, straining relations to a breaking point.

When Professor Jaya Sankar – the presiding ideologue of the Telengana - expired due to cancer, no leader from Andhra or Rayalaseema thought it fit to convey their condolences.

From here, KCR managed to organize Telengana NGOs (non-gazetted officers) into sakalajanula samme or a mass-based agitation. The government crackdown fired a sense of alienation and people of Telengana were made to feel deliberately that they were under a colonial New Delhi ordering them about.

KCR’s fast unto death stirred the country. National leaders including Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal, Sharad Pawar of NCP and other smaller states in North India lend their open support to the Telengana movement.

The panic-stuck UPA government - looking to redeem itself in a wave of massive anti-incumbency, inflation and corruption issues - was left with no option but to make an announcement in favour of Telengana in December, 2009. Seasoned politician, K Rosaiah, who had been crowned chief minister, was unable to tackle the situation. It turned into a political logjam when all parties in the state made a beeline for the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), where KCR was being treated, to extend their solidarity to him as well as the Telengana cause. It was a time when even the main opposition TDP led by Chandrababu Naidu supported the demand.

Succumbing to the pressure created by the resignation of MLAs from the Seemandhra region, Congress went back on Telengana and put the issue at the back burner. But to put the ‘vulnerable’ Congress in a further fix, other parties including TDP, matinee idol Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam party, which was later merged with Congress and the YSR Congress Party floated by son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy favoured a separate Telengana.

Chandrababu Naidu gave an unconditional letter of consent conceding the creation of Telengana. Jagan, who emerged as a local political force with the support of luminaries of his own community, also gave his unequivocal consent.
 

  Pride and prejudice

Telugus now say say they have an axe to ground against the Congress

Telengana would be the 29th state of India and is now a signature away from coming into existence. Bifurcated from Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, with its creation has once again proved that while facts are obscure and boring, prejudices are easier and sweeter to swallow.

The prevailing prejudice about Sonia Gandhi in the minds of Telugus - particularly from coastal and Rayalaseema regions (Seemandhra region), which is now considered to be residual Andhra Pradesh - is strong.

 “It is not merely a prejudice based absurdly on inadequate evidence that Telugus are annoyed with Sonia. It was during 1980s when she was given Indian citizenship and voting rights. Former union minister Parvathaneni Upendra, then opposition MP, contested the decision. Sonia’s personal attack on the MP also kicked a row in Lok Sabha,” Rajakumari Nannapaneni, MLC from coastal Andhra, representing the TDP, told The Sunday Indian.

There are always some in Andhra who believe that the role of former prime minister and son of the soil, P V Narasimha Rao or PV as he was known, was being deliberately underplayed. It is well known that PV was denied a samadhi (tomb) in the national capital - the denial allegedly came at the behest of Sonia.

Says C Narasimha Rao, political analyst, “Sonia’s anger on persons has turned into vengeance on their ethnic group. Remember that Sonia had to resign as chairperson of National Advisory Council (NAC) after being challenged by our MP, the late Erram Naidu. ”

 Similarly, sources say pepper-spray MP, Lagadapati Rajagopal, has been denied appointment with the Congress president ever since he took up an indefinite hunger strike against her 2009-decision of bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. If they are to be believed, she has also turned down a huge donation from Lagadapati to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. A series of coincidences that.
 


The others too were left with no option and even parties as diverse as the CPI and BJP joined the Telengana bandwagon. “However, the Congress is extra keen that the pride of ‘achieving’ Telengana does not go to TRS; instead Congress should – as it has now – be credited with bestowing a separate state. So, it strategically deferred and dragged the issue in the name of commissions and committees on Telengana,” political analyst and psephologist, Ramalingam Vavilala points out.
 

  Capital concerns

The trickiest aspect of the Andhra bifurcation story is its capital.

Telangana is the first state to be separated from the capital, whereas all states which have been split in post-Independent India were away from the capital city. Frankly, the champions of Samaikya Andhra (United Andhra Pradesh) have been fighting not on ethnic integrity, but only with the emphasis on Hyderabad.

“After formation of Vishal Andhra- a merger of Andhra State and Hyderabad State in 1956 - Hyderabad turned into a hub of development. People from affluent Seemandhra settled in Hyderabad and poured their investments to develop the city. Which is why the movement against state bifurcation primarily demanded a UT (union territory) status for Hyderabad,” APK Reddy, president of the Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises, Andhra Pradesh told TSI.

But opinion here is divided. Says senior journalist and Telengana social activist Ravindar Durgam: “Realtors should not be given credit for the development of Hyderabad. It is not as if they did some philanthropic services in the region. All they did was to sap away the resources of the region, particularly Hyderabad”.

Now, after the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2014 had been passed in both upper and lower houses of the Parliament without specifying the capital for residual Andhra Pradesh, that question  has dominated the agenda of the day.

When leaders from the north Andhra coastal belt argue that port city Visakhapatnam (Vizag), the second largest city after Hyderabad, is ideal for the capital, their counterparts from the Rayalaseema region challenge it since the place is more than 1,000 kilometers away from their homes. In turn, leaders from Rayalaseema, one of most underdeveloped and drought-hit areas in the country, demand Kurnool/ Tirupati in their region as capital. When Telugu speaking people were separated from the Madras Province in 1953, Kurnool was made the first capital.

As a reminder from history, leaders are now demanding that Kurnool be made the capital again. Tirupati, the celestial abode of Lord Venkateswara, is another proposed capital but is regarded as being too close to Tamil Nadu.

Since these places are also far from north Andhra, Vijayawada and Guntur, the cultural capitals of Andhra Pradesh, too have emerged as possible capitals. But, with absolutely non-availability of government land and skyrocketing prices of private lands, it is currently confined to being put on the ‘under consideration’ list.

In the turmoil, senior IAS officers are busy offering different proposals. According to their basic argument, congested cities should never be made capitals. “New York is not the capital for New York state, but it is Albany. Similarly, the capital for Australia is Canberra, not famous Sydney or Melbourne. In other words, it is difficult to procure land for capital in well established and overcrowded cities,” an official working on the logistics of new capital told TSI.

Armed with a model of Naya Raipur, the new capital city of Chhattisgarh, officials here are proposing to build a new city, which would be equidistant from Rayalaseema or coastal Andhra.

The IAS panel also suggests decentralising power centres, while learning lessons taught by Hyderabad. “The legislative assembly of Karnataka runs its business in Bengaluru and Belgaum. Similar is the case with Maharashtra. So, in the process of decentralizing the power centres, let the high court of new residual Andhra Pradesh be at one place and other higher offices be situated somewhere else,” a bureaucrat points out. At the moment though, it is all delving in the world of ideas, going round and round.
 

 

In a simultaneous move, the Congress started taking steps to retrieve the situation and better its prospects in the state. Accordingly it replaced Rosaiah with N Kiran Kumar Reddy, upgraded Chiranjeevi to a higher profile and gave him a union cabinet berth, in the process delighting millions of his fans. It also made Damodar Rajanarsimha, a Dalit, as deputy chief minister. Nevertheless, the Congress remained nervous with reports of an inevitable washout in Andhra Pradesh, which gave it 32 MPs in the present Lok Sabha.

According to senior Congress leader and former Andhra Pradesh minister J C Diwakar Reddy, there is little doubt that “Our Congress high command struck a secret deal with Jagan,”. He told TSI that Jagan was suddenly released from the prison not under any fortuitous circumstances but because there was no option left. “There was no better quid pro quo than the bail granted to Jagan,” he said on the case in which the CBI charge-sheeted Jagan for disproportionate assets.

Jagan is also allegedly a beneficiary of his late father’s wealth. With the concessions accruing from Telangana and the merger with TRS, self- preservative Congress is set to sweep the polls in the region in the forthcoming general elections.

The seemingly antagonist Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who stepped down in protest against the creation of a separate Telengana, is mooting the idea of a new party; that too has purportedly been prompted by the Congress High Command.

“The TDP has lost its base in Seemandhra with its letter of consent in favour of the division and also not gained much in Telengana. BJP, with its’ meager presence in Seemandhra, further loses its vote-bank for supporting the Telengana bill in the both houses,” says VMRG Suresh of Loksatta. Little wonder that the parties in Andhra Pradesh are made to move their knights to the edge of the board. It is said that knight on the rim is dim! What’s’ important, the Congress knows it.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017