Sunday, February 17, 2013

Congress tangles Telangana beyond repair

This article was written for Niti Central. Reproducing the same here.

This article is not intended to make or break a case for splitting AP. It merely seeks to explain the current vitiated scenario; how it becomes impossible to take any decision in such an atmosphere; the lack of a proper road map; and the lack of attempt by the ruling party - the congress party - to attempt any sort of conciliatory measures. Until such point of time, where the people of both the regions reach a general agreement on the split - this unrest will continue. 

Recent past

When questioned about their view on Telangana, from 2004 to 2009, every congress person worth his/her salt had pretty much this to say -" Sonia amma is seized of the matter. She will take an appropriate decision". For all those five years, the same echo everywhere - "madam" will decide, "madam" will decide, "madam" will decide. None of us had any clue what was going on in Madam's mind - the people of the state were never told. 

And then, in late November 2009, TRS President KCR started his umpteenth fast unto death for Telangana. Congress party still did not have an opinion till then. Within 10 days, things changed. KCR was getting weak. Students were getting involved in the agitations; non-political leaders too got busy with agitations; bandhs, dharnas became the order of the day. And then Madam decided that on her birthday, December 9th, her government will announce a favourable decision. At 11:45pm that night, then Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced that the "process of forming Telangana will be initiated". 

And all hell broke loose in the rest of Andhra Pradesh. People took to the streets, demanded that their representatives resign; students, non-political leaders took to the streets; bandhs, dharnas became the order of the day in these regions! And within 15 days, Madam took another decision - her birthday gift will have to be put on hold. It was also decided that an all-party will be called and a commission headed by Justice Shri Krishna will give a comprehensive report within an year. 

Ever since, there have been dharnas, bandhs, strikes, marches, meetings etc in both the regions (more prominent in Telangana though. One such strike by govt. employees of Telangana lasted for more than a month, putting many common folks to misery). First affected are school and colleges - fearing any law and order issue - they shut down. Exams get postponed; special classes get arranged later to make up for these losses. The Sri Krishna commission, after extensive deliberations across the state, recommended that the state should not be split. More agitations! Periodically, a buzz is created about a "possible announcement" - and then there is again an unrest in one region or the other. This has been the story of the state since December 2009. 

The Present

Amidst all this, in early December 2012, UPA was hell-bent on pushing through the FDI bill in Parliament. Since there was widespread opposition to it, a vote was necessitated  Seizing this opportunity, Congress MP's from Telangana decided to boycott the CPP meeting to protest against their own party's indecisiveness in atleast calling for an all-party meeting from AP! And since winning this vote was of paramount importance, the Congress leadership agreed to set-up an all party meeting on the 28th of December. Home Minister Shinde convened the meeting and pompously announced that he would take a decision within one month. 

As January 28th was approaching, the congress incharge of AP, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad made a prolific announcement - "One month does not mean 30 days". While this amazing scientific assertion will prompt a re-look at some basics followed the world over, the government promptly followed up this announcement by saying they need more time to decide on this issue!  And now the stage has been set for the next round of unrest in the state. Remember, this round of unrest started because GoI was keen on pushing through FDI. The common folk have already begun to dread 

No proper road-map

Whilst Congress party and "madam" have been dilly dallying, some other parties have made their stand "clear" on Telangana. And herein lies the main problem. These parties have no stance on some basic points, like:
  1. Assuming AP will be split into two - Telangana and Andhra, what will be capital city of the two states? 
  2. Assuming Hyderabad is the capital for Telangana, what will be the capital city of Andhra? 
  3. How long will it take to build a new capital city for the new state?
  4. Till such point of time, what is the proposed roadmap to govern both the states?
  5. How will water distribution take place between the split states?
  6. Is it safe to assume that granting Telangana would mean that AP gets divided into 2 and not 3 states?
Believe it or not, not a single political party (BJP, TDP etc) that claims to have "clarity" on Telangana issue has answers to the above! A capital city is the basic requirement in a road map. Without answers to such basic questions above, how would one proceed with splitting a state? Assuming there is some secret master plan for the same - how does the BJP plan to convince people and parties across the state and create a separate state "within 100 days"? 

The only thing that reigns supreme in AP now is confusion! Endless debates on status of Hyderabad, special packages, community interests (MIM's main plank) happen day in, day out - draining out the viewer's interest! The mess that Congress party (and Sonia Gandhi) created is something that cannot be undone in 100 days, especially with no clarity on some basic requirements for splitting of a state. One cannot simply brush aside the comprehensive report of the Justice Shri Krishna commission, that advocates a united state. 

Since that dreadful December month of 2009 - one section strongly wants a separate state and the other strongly opposes it. Both sections have powerful political leaders in them; both have powerful articulators who will throw facts at the drop of the hat; both have regular involvement of students and civil society leaders; both have strong support from the common people of the regions - amidst such a vicious atmosphere, it is improbable to imagine that this can be mitigated and a way is paved for a long lasting solution "within 100 days". 

And then there are advocates of smaller states as a matter of principle - but where emotions are involved such theory will not pass muster. In our online world, many outside the state are always curious about the political prospects of Congress and the BJP in various scenarios. Whatever their political prospects are - one thing is for sure - the prospects of a stable Andhra Pradesh has gone for a toss. And as Shashi Shekhar mentions in this article - there is no leader in sight who can help resolve this. 


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