The Congress-led UPA is working overtime to get the Telangana Bill (the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill) cleared by this session of the Parliament, to be ended on 21 February.
Reportedly, the Government is planning to place it at the earliest, even before the scheduled date of February 12.
Nothing much can be expected, just within a week. So the UPA is strategically introducing it in the Rajya Sabha, apparently to keep it alive after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. Technically, Bills introduced in the Rajya Sabha and not passed by it, remain in the ‘Live Register’.
The Congress and its allies have the majority in the Lok Sabha, however in Rajya Sabha this will not be scene.
But the Congress has in some way assured that as per its stand, BJP will not back out from supporting the Bill. Only a few amendments might be required.
If behind-the-scene happenings are to be believed, the Congress leaders like Ahmed Patel and Digvijay Singh have opened an unofficial channel with the rival party, already, on the issue.
The Congress’s Andhra Pradesh in charge Digvijay Singh reportedly met Venkaiah Naidu, the former BJP Chief and an Andhrite himself, to get an assurance on BJP’s support for the controversial bill.
Venkaiah Naidu has purportedly said that the Telangana Ball was primarily in the Congress Court and BJP has already submitted its concerns on the Bill. “Let us see how the Congress is going to bring amendments to the Bill, we will respond then.”
Usually the formation of a new State does not require any Amendment in the Constitution. Only a modest majority in both the Houses of Parliament is required to pass the Bill.
A special meeting of the Union Cabinet only last week cleared the Bill which UPA wants to introduce in Parliament at any cost.
It’s quite obvious by the way the Congress brought in the Bill hurriedly after 10 years of dilly dallying. The Congress-led UPA government is almost sure that coming back to power is not a sure conclusion now. Among the five States which provide maximum number of MPs, Andhra has performed the best for the the Congress. Maharashtra can’t be extra sure in 2014.The other three-Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar are out of reach for the Congress, in any way.
In sheer desperation it has now decided to have this strategy to create the State of Telangana, even at the risk of losing the support of the Seemandhra people, losing the support of a sizable number of its sitting MPs and MLAs. It’s hardly bothering the party that its long-time card holder and confidante, the stalwart CM Kiran Kumar Reddy, is openly opposing the party’s decision. He and a large number of State Legislators have now revolted against the Party High Command. In an utterly unprecedented way, just recently, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly has rejected the Bill by a controversial voice vote.
And above all, even without any guarantee that the Bill will bring big political fortune for it in the Sothern State, the Congress is undoubtedly risking the exposure of the crucial final session of the 15th Lok Sabha, which is scheduled to bring the most important Vote-on-Account on the 17th of February.
In the process, the party is also upsetting the much-publicised agenda of party’s Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, seeking a Parliament endorsement of the anti-corruption Bills, appallingly to support his claim that as a party the Congress is at the forefront of fighting corruption!
A Renegade Chief Minister
No opposition leader, but Kiran Kumar Reddy, the Congress CM, who is holding the flag of strident opposition to bifurcation of the State, is more than sure that the Congress’s imminent electoral prospects after Telangana, “…are zero”!
He is certain that UPA’s decision to divide Andhra Pradesh is going to cost the Congress party heavily in the years to come.
In an emotionally worded Press conference after the Andhra Assembly’s rejection of the Bill, The Chief Minister earnestly sought to know why the Centre was in a hurry to settle the process of bifurcation!
“You have waited for so many years. Why can’t you wait for another two months? Let the Telugu people have the liberty to decide on whether they want an undivided Andhra or its division,” he had asked earnestly.
Taking an aggressive stance while addressing the Press Conference a peevish Kiran Reddy was highly critical of the Congress-led Government at the Centre as well as the central leadership of the Congress party for the excessive haste to bifurcate the State!
“No new State has been created after a resolution was defeated in the State legislature,” Mr. Reddy reaffirmed, denying the speculation that the President had just sought views of the AP Legislature on the Bill, under Article 3 of the Constitution, so he would not affirm any importance to the Assembly resolutions.
Not just Kiran Reddy himself, but many are now questioning the way the Telangana issue has been treated by the Congress post 2009! Many of the Congress MLAs are of the strong opinion that the Congress-led UPA could have presented the important Bill before the Union Cabinet earlier and treated the State Assembly in a more dignified and synchronised manner. On the contrary, everything has been executed in undue haste!
As the Congress’s own MLA Anam Vivekananda Reddy has put it sarcastically: The Centre has presented the Bill like instant “Idli and Sambar”!
Cutting the Long Story Short
The Indian Government annexed the Hyderabad State on 17 September 1948, after an Army operation. The Telugu people were given an area that constituted 22 districts, 9 of them from the former Nizam’s princely State Hyderabad, 12 from the erstwhile Madras Presidency and 1 from the former French colony Yanam.
The Telangana movement then was the violent peasant movement led by the Communist Party of India, between 1946 and 1951.
The States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) was initiated by the Indian Government in December 1953, for recommending the reorganisation of State boundaries in India.
The Paragraph 382 of the SRC opined, “Opinion in Andhra is overwhelmingly in favour of the larger unit.” However, the SRC had proposed that the Telangana region be constituted as a separate State with a provision for merger with the Andhra State, only after the 1961 General Elections. That’s also only after any such resolution is passed in the Telangana Assembly with a two-thirds majority.
The Chief Minister B. Ramakrishna Rao, as well as the Congress Party’s Central leadership in Delhi however decided to merge Telangana and Andhra regardless of the opposition from the Telangana people.
The Andhra State Assembly however passed a resolution on 25 November 1955, providing various ‘safeguards’ to Telangana.
After the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, the unified Andhra Pradesh was created on 1 November 1956.
But the anti-Nehru politics thereafter revolved around the peasants’ Telangana movement, spearheaded by the Communist Party of India and was subsequently repressed by the Government. Even some leaders from within the Congress, including Feroze Gandhi, extended their support to the leftist movement.
In 1969 and 1972 also, Telangana people revolted against the merger and alleged deprivation, but the Indira Gandhi-led the Congress Government’s strong antipathy towards them and repressive tactics by her Andhra vassals curtailed the outbursts without delay.
2009 And After
The successive Governments in the Centre and the State almost put the issue in the cold storage for years.
The BJP which has created three new States was not against a separate Telangana, but its ally in NDA, Chandrababu led TDP, which has a decisive base in Seemandhra, could not let it happen. Moreover, BJP itself had no substantial base or say in the State politics.
TRS Chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s growing popularity and his fast unto death in November 2009, prompted the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to declare the formation of a separate Telangana State.
It was the first from the Congress in so many years, but in the process they have opened a Pandora’s Box that the Party has been unable to put a lid on. The Telangana jumble has suddenly entangled the entire Andhra politics and public opinion and aggravated thereafter.
The largest southern State Andhra Pradesh has 42 Lok Sabha seats, putting it amongst the top Indian states with largest number of representatives in the Parliament, after Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
In the 2009 Parliament Polls the Congress won 33 of those 42 seats in the State. The party really became over enthusiastic.
Undoubtedly the impressive win was under the then Chief Minister YSR Reddy’s undisputable clout and highly manipulative politics.
Unlike 2004, the the Congress suddenly realised that they didn’t need the TRS support anymore!
So the Congress backtracked, as usual, from its earlier promise, on Telangana.
Telangana Prompted Again
But 2014 is entirely different from 2009. 5 years later, the the Congress prospect is bleak in Andhra Pradesh. Many the Congressmen in the State now believe that the Congress won’t be able to reach even the double digit mark in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Andhra Pradesh will also hold the Assembly Polls, later this year.
Parties like the TDP, TRS and the fast emerging YSR the Congress are well assured to pull the rug from under the Congress’s feet any time.
But it’s the Congress on its own, which tore apart this texture of belief, thread by thread over the last confident years, in the State as well as at the Centre.
Moreover, first promising a separate State in 2009, then backtracking, and subsequently dragging its feet on such an emotive issue, has left the Congress with little support. Even the Parry cadres from Telangana felt hurt and betrayed!
Jaganmohan Reddy’s meteoric rise in the recent times alarmed the Congress, more than anything else. Already he has whipped up enough emotion in almost all of 13 districts of Seemandhra. Hordes of the Congressmen are now attracted towards him and his party or sitting over the fence. TRS also has got enough time to re- strategise for the 2014 elections. Undoubtedly the party is not going to merge with the Congress, as assured earlier, and the main opposition the Telugu Desam party still has a substantial support base and its inching closer to BJP.
BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi is reportedly closer to Chandrababu Naidu.
The recent Andhra By Polls have thrown up an interesting factor that has been almost ignored by the national media. In most of the constituencies, TDP came a close second to Jagan’s YSR the Congress, while the Congress secured a distinct 3rd position.
In this scenario, Andhra is now a major stake in deciding the future of Rahul Gandhi.
It’s quite clear that, unlike the other demands for Statehood, the Telangana battle is not based on linguist or cultural lines. Right from the very beginning, it’s solely a political issue.
By clearing it in a jiffy, the the Congress-led UPA is creating a domino effect, accentuating the demands for Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand or Bodoland!
But the party is desperate now. In utter desperation, it has pursued without much consultation or conviction, the ultimate plan to form a separate State Telangana, in unusual haste.
By Deep Basu
Image: CC-by-sa PlaneMad/Wikimedia