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Retrofit: La Affaire Telangana – more questions than answers

Guest Column
Retrofit: La Affaire Telangana – more questions than answers

Author | Sandeep Bamzai | Wednesday, Dec 16,2009 7:54 AM

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Guest Column <br>Retrofit:  La Affaire Telangana – more questions than answers

This entire Telangana affair is most baffling. Why should the Government of India act in such a hasty manner by making an arbitrary announcement? I don’t see any reason in this move, given that Telangana Rashtriya Samiti and its leader K Chandrshekhar Rao were trounced in the state and national elections this May. So, if the people’s verdict was against KCR and TRS, how did Banquo’s ghost return so quickly to haunt the UPA Government? In the tower of babble since – on the electronic and print media – there is utter confusion and very few answers. Everyone is busy giving gyan on this issue, but nobody is calling a spade a spade.

The people of Andhra Pradesh did not give KCR a mandate for Telangana in the Assembly polls. KCR’s TRS won 10 seats in the disputed area and two in the Lok Sabha. What does that tell you? There is obviously something seriously amiss within the Congress party. Either they are oblivious of the damage that they have done by issuing the midnight call for Telangana or there is a deeper fissure at a subterranean level. More importantly, this decision or announcement or whatcamacallit has opened a Pandora’s Box – everyone and his aunt wants a separate state. What do we have here – political sagacity or political seppuku? The piece de resistance is that Jagan Reddy has backed the call for a United Andhra Pradesh. AP has seen cataclysimic events being triggered from the moment Chief Minister YSR’s chopper went down in flames. On Tuesday morning, I was reading Through The Third Eye, ET’s whipsers on their edit page. Two specific items caught my eye. Both strangely connected to La Affaire Telangana.

Let me quote from Whodunit first: As the political storm that followed the Centre’s move on Telangana rages, nobody in the Congress wants to reveal who tilted the decision in that memorable Congress Core Committee meeting. Sonia Gandhi loyalists aver she goes by her advisors. Congressmen who want to shield the PM say he has a cultivated aversion for the nuts and bolts of political matters. Beneficiaries of Ahmed Patel swear their man only swims with the current. Pranab Mukherjee’s backers want everyone to know that he wasn’t present at that meeting. P Chidambaram’s admirers assert how he is meant to stay focused only on non-political administrative matters. Fans of AK Antony say his instinct has always been to duck the bullets at the high table. Those who care for Veerappa Moily reflect on how he made it big without taking any decisions. As for poor Rosaiah, his few sympathisers want critics to get one thing right; he woes his CM post to his proven inability to take firm decisions. Be sure, the Congress credit hunt will be inconclusive till the mess is managed. Amazing and probably true insight into the men who are part of Camelot.

The ruling party has been at sixes and sevens ever since it was re-elected to office this May. Prices have gone into the stratosphere, Headley and Rana (incidentally the other big story) were unearthed and revealed by the FBI after they had a free run of India, inertia and lassitude grips our political class. Is it that the Congress, realising that the Opposition is deeply fragmented, want to do pretty much as it pleases. But that is dangerous for democracy. The other item in Third Eye can wait, for I now want to take you on a journey which is probably the closest to the truth. A piece by the Political Editor of Hindustan Times, Pankaj Vohra, who has raised pertinent questions on the sorry state of affairs. Vohra has written an incisive analysis, asking vital questions on the conduct of the Government over the Telangana fiasco.

He wrote, “The arbitrary announcement by the UPA Government that it would bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, paving the way for the creation of Telangana, is a classic example of political hara-kiri by the party. The decision to divide the state is not only against the mandate of the 2009 Parliament and Assembly polls, but has been arrived at without any rationale or adequate consultations. What is appalling is that the announcement was made after a meeting of the Core Committee and without even the Union Cabinet’s endorsement. Worse, if such a proposal was to be announced, then Parliament, which is in session, was the appropriate forum. The move not only lacks Constitutional sanction, but is also devoid of propriety. The announcement will precipitate a crisis in many other states where similar demands have been pending.

“It is alarming to think that along with Andhra Pradesh, now caught up in political unrest, supporters of a separate Vidarbha, Saurashtra, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand, Poorvanchal, Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Jammu and Ladakh may also take to the streets. In the process, the Centre is likely to come in for a severe criticism from all quarters if and when such agitations spread across the country. People have been suffering the acute price rise in silence. Regional forces will now play on their emotions and encourage them to demand the creation of new states. Even politically, the Congress, which had done well to minimise the role of regional players, may find that chauvinistic forces may once again appropriate the space it had sought to recover in various regions. Far-fetched though it may sound, heightened agitations in various regions could pose a big challenge to the Centre’s continuation in office. The political class has already branded the present Government as one of babus. In the midst of emotions running high, a senior official has given further proof of the growing role of babus by publicly agreeing that Hyderabad will be the capital of Telangana. So now we have bureaucrats deciding on the capital of a state whose creation itself is in doubt.”

I saw actor Raja Bundela giving the clarion call for Bundelkhand by holding a presser. And BMW – Behenji MayaWati – has already called for four states to be created out of UP. Meanwhile, the long forgotten Jaswant Singh was resurrected in a Gurkha cap asking for Gorkhaland, while other agitationists like Vohra has said are crawling out of the woodwork. Woe betide that moment when Chidambaram announced Telangana.

But let Vohra take up the narrative once again, “The manner in which the issue has been handled demonstrates that the decision-making mechanism in the Government is faulty. Why else would a decision, which is likely to severely affect the Congress in its best state, be taken so casually? There has been no reference point on the subject from the State and neither has the Centre put forward any proposal in Parliament. But a decision has arbitrarily been taken. Why? The issue has also raised questions on whether this was done because someone in the party wanted to divert attention from the various scams. Or was this done to finish the late YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s influence so that his son Jagan would not inherit his legacy? Or was this due to the power politics within the Congress.

“Whatever the compelling reasons, the announcement has put the Congress on the mat and the Government will have to bear the consequences. The mass resignation of MLAs and MPs from Andhra is an indication of how sensitive the matter is. In the 2009 Assembly polls, when the Telangana Rashtra Samiti contested on the issue of a separate state, it got only 10 out of 117 seats in the region. Clearly, the mandate was for a unified Andhra. So whose ‘wise’ advice did the Congress and the Government’s leadership listen to on this issue? In any case, the Congress now has a lot to worry about in its 125th year. Between Us.”

This coming from a Congress groupie tells you of how indignation is spreading far and wide. As people grapple with the everyday reality of harsh prices, eggs are at Rs 45 a dozen, potatos Rs 14 a kilo, onions Rs 20 a kilo, while sugar is Rs 36 a kilo. Essentials are skyrocketing and politicians are besotted with Telangana. It’s a scary feeling. But if the same KCR was down and out in his very own Telangana, ostracized by the voters, why is it that this issue blew up in the face of the Congress party? I will take Third Eye’s help again. I have said this in the past, and I am saying it again, ET’s political, yes political, coverage is best of breed. Despite a known predilection for the Advani-Jaitley camp, the best political stories appear in ET. Of course, Indian Express still breaks the best stories, sadly not many read it anymore. It is still the paper for journalists. Probably only for journos now.

Anyway, back to Third Eye: What prompted the timing of TRS chief KCR’s fast unto death is shrouded in mystery. After all, only a fortnight ago, he chickened out from demonstrating his battered TRS’ popular standing by deciding not to contest the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls. As Rao is hoping to emerge as the Telangana hero from being an electoral zero, an interesting back room detail has emerged. A few days before Rao’s fast, six of the 10 TRS MLAs reached Delhi and secretly met an influential AICC General Secretary in handling AP politics. The MLAs wanted to join the Congress and pleaded with the party heavyweight to facilitate their urgent meeting with Sonia Gandhi. They said that their attempts to reach out to 10 Janpath via the PCC set up and AICC managers had been futile given the post leadership confusion. Even as the MLAs were being guided on how to cut through the infamous red tape, came the news of Rao announcing his fast. Some Congress leaders now wonder if Rao took the plunge after getting a whiff of the plot to split the TRS legislature party as well.”

Baffling that the same KCR has emerged as the saviour of Telangana in double quick time. Makes one think, which part of the Congress is batting for whom. Posers by the dozen, but no clear answers. Meanwhile, hapless Indians like you and me pay more for everything under the sun. Demand-supply imbalances, yeah, tell me about it!

(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.
The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of exchange4media.com.)

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