Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The AP reorg bill - Why bother to split if everything is common?!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 
The President has sent the “Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013″ to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly seeking the opinion of its members on all the clauses. The President has given six weeks from the date of receipt for the Assembly to get back with its recommendations. The deadline ends on January 23, 2014. Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) have graciously decided to debate the Bill for a whopping 13 days, with the last day being the January 23 itself! For the past 140 days, we have been ruing the absence of any clarity on the process of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Does this Bill bring the semblance of clarity that we were expecting it to bring about? The answer is no. Not just from us – but from pretty much every single political entity in the State (including pro-Telangana parties)! While some are plain opposed to the bifurcation itself, parties that want the State to split are baffled at some of the decisions arrived by the Union Cabinet. Most part of the Bill is merely a copy-paste version of the MP with and Biharwith Bills. They just had to replace the names of States and rivers, with the relevant ones here.

Before getting into details, some nitpicking! 

1. The Bill does not have a Contents Page at the beginning. There is no way to refer quickly on the various topics being covered! Unbelievably, given that we are taught that this is a basic requirement while writing such documents.
2. A few political parties are opposing that the Bill does not have a “Statement of Objects and Reasons” – basically explaining the reasons why the State is being bifurcated. The MP and Bihar Bills had this section, whilst the UP Bill did not. But it still beats me – isn’t such a statement a basic requirement?
3. These parties are also opposing that there is no ‘Financial Memorandum’ attached to this Bill. The MP and Bihar Bills had a section that merely says the President will take a decision based on recommendation of the Finance Commission. Not sure why the parties are objecting to this section not being present, when it actually does not say anything substantial. Let’s now take a look at some of the contentious provisions of the Bill.
Common capital, Governor (with special powers), High Court, Entrance Exam for higher education.
The Bill proposes that the existing area notified under Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation will serve as the common capital of both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for a period not exceeding 10 years. And then the contentious points begin. The law and order of the region will fall under the Governor, which is not acceptable to the pro-Telangana parties. The Bill then says that there will not just be a common capital but a common Governor for both the States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (wait for it – not for 10 years, but for a time period decided by the President), who will be “assisted by two advisors of the Central Government”.  Not just this, the Bill also says, “The Governor shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers of Telangana, exercise his individual judgement” with respect to issues of law and order in Hyderabad; and “The decision….shall not be called into question”.
What kind of sweeping authority is this to an unelected office? Same Governor for both the States, but Governor will consult the Telangana Cabinet and will exercise his/her individual judgement “assisted by two advisors of the Central Government”. Why even bother consulting the State when “individual judgement” is being exercised? The Andhra Pradesh High Court was one of the key tension points in the agitation for and against the split of the State. In its unending wisdom, the Central Government has decided that the existing High Court will serve as a common High Court till a separate High Court is constituted under Article 214 of the Constitution. No time frame has been set for this. But of course, until a new capital is decided, how will the bench of the High Court be decided? 
So what is the new capital of Andhra Pradesh? The Bill gives such amazing clarity that we don’t know yet – we will know 45 days after the State is split – because a committee will decide within 45 days of the split, which will be the new capital?
Forty five days are woefully short period, giving the passions involved in the regions. But, it is really futile to expect this Government to take care of such issues. According to Sushilkumar Shinde’s plan (read Sonia Gandhi’s plan), the Bill will be passed in the Budget Session. Forty five days since then will be mid to end of March, by then elections will be announced. If the split of the State happens, then there are vociferous demands from various sections of people on the location of the capital city. Amidst an election code and inflamed passions, do we really expect an ‘expert committee’ to recommend a State capital within 45 days?! Nearly 145 days have passed since the Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution was made – what exactly stopped the Government of India to appoint this Committee so that it could come up with recommendations?  
Existing quotas in higher education and existing common entrance exam tests will continue to remain. Common entrance exam for two States; same process that is being followed in one State now will be followed in both the States for a maximum period of 10 years.
So, we have a Bill that says a State will be split into two, but the two States will continue to have the same capital for 10 years, same Governor, same High Court, same entrance exams and same quotas in colleges. However, a basic question which comes to mind is why even bother to split the State?! Sonia Gandhi’s plan seems to just the split the State as soon as possible and leave it for the next Government to resolve all contentious issues. What a pity that we have such people at the helm.
Electricity and water issues
The opponents of the bifurcation have asked some pointed queries on the sharing of electricity and water issues. The Chief Minister of the State even had a couple of Press conferences to explain his objections related to the sharing of electricity and water. His contention is that these issues will impede development in both Telangana and AP States, if the split happens. We know the UPA doesn’t care much about opinions of Opposition-ruled Governments, but in this case, it looks like they did not pay any heed to their own Chief Minister! For electricity issues, the Bill merely says, “If it appears to the Central Government that…supply/generation has been modified to the disadvantage of one area, the Centre after consultations with the State Governments, will give such directions…”They took so long to come up with this? For water issues raised, the Centre copy pasted sections of earlier Bills and replaced words like Ganga with Godavari! In it’s unending wisdom, the Central Government has decided to setup an “Apex Council” which will “resolve any dispute amicably“. Again, they took so long to come up with this?
Other issues
Like mentioned above, apart from the above contentious points, there really was not much work to do for the GoM, given the fact that everything else was copy and pasted and key words replaced. For issues of revenue, debt, taxes, assets etc – the population ratio will be the criteria. Problems will come when the actual division of these things takes place – but UPA definitely does not care. The Bill mentions the names of MLCs and Rajya Sabha MPs who will now be representing the new States; the list of constituencies etc. The next step is the debate in the Assembly.

Is it back to square one?

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference:

After more than 125 days’ wait, the UPA Government led by Sonia Gandhi, finally got ready with a draft Bill for Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation. I am writing this article at a time when the bill is yet to be uploaded on the internet. Though, some media houses and politicians have shown us a bound copy of the report. So, we have no idea of the finer details in the bill.
Large sections of the Telugu media have printed many excerpts from the report. If we are to go by those, there is hardly anything to gloat about getting the much needed clarity. There is definitely better clarity than before – but the benchmark for clarity was so low that we are just relieved that “something is better than nothing”!
We still don’t know which city is going to be the next capital city of Andhra Pradesh. The GoM has graciously agreed to constitute an expert committee to decide on this within 45 days. According to news reports, the 45 day deadline will come into force after the Bill is passed in Parliament. Really weird!  But, it is futile to expect anything better from Sonia’s UPA.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and many other leaders have put forward specific and probing questions on the water sharing arrangements. The GoM merely said that a mechanism will be instituted wherein the central Government will make sure that no injustice is done. The contours of this mechanism are not clear yet – and more importantly, so far we do not know if the specific issues raised by the Chief Minister have even been mentioned in the report!
The GoM has laid out broad guidelines on the distribution of assets, the distribution of employees, the splitting up of regions under various electricity zones, law and order in Hyderabad etc. These guidelines give us better clarity than before, but trouble lies when the Government has to get down to the nitty-gritty of implementing this. That is the key to the whole process.
On the education front, the news out is totally confusing. Apparently, the recommendation is to continue the common entrance tests for both the States under one umbrella, for five years! How this proposal will work is beyond my understanding. Hopefully, once the bill is out, we will probably be wiser than we were before. The GoM has said that premier education institutes (like IIT, IIM) will be setup in Seemandhra, but as of now no one is enthused by this proposal.
So, what’s next?
There is a widespread resentment (foremost amongst Congress MLAs) that such an important item was merely tabled as a “table item”. Table item means that the Cabinet ministers will get to read the bill only at the meeting, and not prior to that. Ministers from Andhra Pradesh were deeply upset that they were not even given time to read the report and react to it. News reports indicated that P Chidambaram told them, “Even they are being given two days’ time. The report will be accepted as it is. So, why bother with time?” If true, it is distressing to note the casual and arrogant attitude of the GoM!
However, the most important event will be the discussion in the Assembly. Massive scheming is going on, led by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress MLAs themselves, to defeat every single proposal in the Assembly. It is 100 per cent sure that there will not be a single resolution from the Assembly. The debate will be heated beyond par and it will also be lengthy. In the other cases, the State Assemblies were given a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of 69 days to respond. So, there is a speculation about what the President, Pranab Mukherjee will do. 20 days is a ridiculous time frame to be given to the Andhra Pradesh assembly. But, with Congress you never know!
The vote in the Assembly will not matter even a bit to Sonia Gandhi. However, the scheming is on, to stress on how the State can be split under such a venomous atmosphere. Reports are also indicating that the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister might even resign on the floor of the house to perpetuate a constitutional crisis.
The TRS President is also unhappy with many provisions in the Bill for the State’s bifurcation. He announced yesterday that they will respond in detail soon. He asked people to withhold celebrations till the Bill is passed by Parliament. Sushil Kumar Shinde continues to lie that they want to bring the Bill in winter session only. But what better to expect from this man?
Bandhs and protests are back to haunt the residents of Seemandhra now. After lying low for about a month, these protests are again going to pick up steam within no time. Union Minister Chiranjeevi has urged Sonia Gandhi to ensure that the Prime Minister accepts his resignation. The next one month will be the most crucial days in this process. Primarily because of the Assembly discussions, this session promises to be the most virulent session ever in Andhra Pradesh’s history.
Unless Sonia decides to give the assembly lesser than 20 days’ time, we are in for a sad, dreadful and long battle in which no one will emerge as a winner.
Tailpiece: Last week, NDTV flashed saying Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi approved Rayala-Telangana. All local media outlets also reported the same. Prominent leader from the Ananthapur region, JC Diwakar Reddy had called Sonia Gandhi as “Goddess”. Wonder what his reaction will be now!

The dangerous machinations of UPA..

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference.

Sometime in July, the Congress leaked to the Press that they are contemplating the formation of a Rayala-Telangana (RT) State – instead of just Telangana. This proposal would include the two districts of the Rayalaseema region in the new State. Quite unexpectedly, there was a uproar at this proposal and many parties simply denounced it.  The below snapshot is from a report from The Hindu on July 20. The highlighted portion confirms the reports that RT was being contemplated.
125 days later, Congress still clueless on Telangana
And then on the morning of July 21, we read this – Rayala Telangana proposal given quiet burial
125 days later, Congress still clueless on Telangana
And on July 30, we read this – RT was never on Congress agenda!
125 days later, Congress still clueless on Telangana
And on August 3 (four days after CWC resolution endorsing Telangana with 10 districts), we read this – AICC arrives at a secret pact on RT!
125 days later, Congress still clueless on Telangana
Ever since, we have documented in great detail how the Congress was only compounding confusion in the minds of the people of Andhra Pradesh. A Group of Ministers (GoM) (that was blatantly reconstituted by Sonia Gandhi for reasons passing understanding) began to fast-track its work in the last one month or so, has suddenly bought up the issue of RT yet again!
Since the past one week, news reports in all publications are abuzz that the GoM is strongly contemplating the creation of RT, instead of just Telangana. The deputy Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh is in hectic parleys with Jairam Ramesh who is apparently trying to convince the deputy Chief Minister that RT is the ‘only’ way forward. The Congress leadership is citing an application submitted by Union Minister of State – Railways, Kotla Suryaprakash Reddy. This application, which says that in the event of the bifurcation being inevitable, then RT is the preferred choice -  was endorsed by 1700 gram panchayats of the Kurnool region. Obviously, they won’t tell you that any region of the State will agree to this proposal if they get the confidence that Hyderabad will remain theirs!

The machinations of Sonia’s Congress are getting dangerous by the day. Is this how the split of a State, that has an impact on crores of people, should be done? Is this how decisions are changed week over week, with no clarity or purpose? More than four months since CWC resolution was read out – and we are ‘yet’ to receive any kind of clarity. Leave aside the clarity – the confusion that Sonia’s Congress is creating in the minds of people is plain sickening. It’s really sad and depressing to be treated as pawns in Sonia Gandhi’s game of votes. Reports are also indicating that the proposal from RT is the work of a genius because:

1. State will be evenly split – 147 Assembly seats each, 21 Lok Sabha seats each.
2. Will control TRS, YSRCP, TDP to a great extent because their impact will lessen over a broadened State.
3. The Bill will smoothly go through the Assembly.
Not even one leak that gives technical reasons for this proposal – all leaks say the above three points only. What a pity that you want to divide people so that you can rule! Major parties are opposed to this RT proposal – so it beats us as to how this will have a smooth passage in the Assembly. What kind of a precedent is Sonia Gandhi trying to set? One where you can divide States as you fancy? Is this why the people of AP sent over 30 MPs ?
We were told last week that there will be special Cabinet meeting on December 3 to discuss the GoM report. We have waited for more than 120 days for clarity. All indications from these leaks point out that clarity will be the one thing that will be missing out in the report! The people of Andhra Pradesh simply hope (against hope) that the GoM will surprise all of us, and will give amazing clarity on the bifurcation. We simply wait for one more day.

The hide and seek continues...

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I want to re-iterate one point — nearly 115 days have passed since Sonia Gandhi gave her okay to split Andhra Pradesh and we still do not have a clarity on the process. This process was targeted to be completed within 180 days. One might argue that the GoM has been constituted to look into all the problems and one needs to have patience before they submit their report. Fair enough point — provided we know when the report will come out! Last week, news reports were abuzz with “sources” claiming that the GoM report will come out on November 21, Cabinet will okay it on the 22nd and will send it to the President. Andhra Pradesh Congress Chief tells us that Digvijay Singh told him that the AP Assembly will get the bill by this month end.
From the 18th to the 20th of this month, a few members of the GoM met with the Chief Minister, and Union Ministers from Andhra Pradesh separately. All of them made their oft-repeated arguments on why they support/oppose bifurcation. This is the report that the CM has apparently submitted to the President of India – in which it is explained in detail as to why a divided State will spell doom for all three regions of the State. News reports were abuzz that the GoM merely listened to what the CM had to say — it was as if they were merely completing a formality (few members of the GoM were even absent at this presentation). At that time, since rumours were abuzz that the report would be ready on the 21st, most of us wondered as to why the GoM is even bothering to meet these leaders so close to finalising their report.
On November 21, Shinde tells us that the GoM will again meet on the 27th! So there goes Digvijay Singh’s claim that the Assembly will get the Bill by the month’s end. Digvijay Singh has been on the forefront of lying and hoodwinking the people of AP. It is really unfortunate to note that this man has been at the centre of this whole process.
There are some more disturbing claims that are going around from ‘sources’. First, that the GoM will submit its report on 27th and the Cabinet will take it up and okay it on 28th itself.One Day! Just one day for the entire Cabinet (which includes members from Andhra Pradesh too) to read, understand, digest, discuss and debate such a serious issue! Next is the rumour that the Assembly will be given just 10 days to respond to the Bill. When three States were formed in the year 2000, their Assemblies were given 45 days to respond to this. Basic courtesy and respect towards precedents demand that the Andhra Pradesh Assembly too gets 45 days, so that members can present detailed observations supporting or opposing the Bill. I guess we are asking for too much from Sonia’s UPA?
There is a race against time to bring this Bill in the winter session of the Parliament. The winter session is scheduled to be held from December 5 to December 20. According to information that is available now, the earliest that the President can assent and send the Bill to the AP Assembly is November 30/December 1. Assuming that the center insists that the AP Assembly comes back within 10 days, the earliest that the Speaker can convene the Assembly is December 3/December 4. (There is a fight happening on this – Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister wants Speaker to prorgue the Assembly so that it will take a minimum of 10 days to reconvene it. He cites administrative needs for this request. Speaker is yet to respond, and the Telangana leaders are calling this as yet another trick being played by the CM!).
AP Assembly will atleast need to debate this issue for 3-4 days. Essentially, the members get a mere 3 days to prepare for the debate. The Assembly is bound to be vitroilic and perhaps severely disruptive. In all probability, there will be voting, and maybe the CM may resign on the floor of the house too, in an attempt to create a crisis. Is it prudent then, for the Parliament to take up this bill for discussion and passing? The law of course allows it, but what about the bad precedent this will set? Will all parties agree to this blatant transgression by the Congress party?
News leaks continue on a daily basis – on the status of Hyderabad; on the scope of a Rayala-Telangana State; on a massive package to Seemandhra; on a prominent role to the Governor; and what not. These reports only compound the confusion in the existing minds of the people. Yesterday MIM leader Owaisi met Sonia Gandhi and demanded that Hyderabad should not be made Union Territory. Making Hyderabad a Union Territory in the event of a split being inevitable is one of the primary demand of Congress Ministers from Seemandhra. Given Sonia’s penchant to give into demands from the minority, is it safe to assume that Hyderabad will not be made an UT?
The GoM is moving way too fast — seeding more doubts in the vulnerable minds of the people of Andhra Pradesh. Can we really trust them to resolve this highly emotional issue with the amicability that it really deserves? We really need enough time to understand the scope of the GoM’s report. We definitely do not deserve to be rushed through for the want of meeting an imaginary deadline – especially in this surcharged atmosphere. History tells us that we are expecting too much from Sonia’s UPA – but will she surprise us by sticking to established precedents atleast now? Perhaps we will get an answer on November 27.

Either too fast or too slow!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference.

Either they move too slowly or they move too fast! Both are pretty dangerous ways of arriving at an amicable solution to pressing problems, but then what can we really expect from the Congress-led UPA Government?
We refer to the Group of Ministers’ deliberations on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. For nearly 80 days, the Congress did nothing. And now that the GoM has become a beehive of activity, they have invited all Andhra Pradesh parties to come and meet them. The GoM’s generosity is quite evident as they’ve allotted a whopping 20 minutes to each party to put forth their views. The BJP demanded that the Centre first come clean on what its answers are to various contentious issues. It demanded some information from the GoM, which the GoM is yet to give. The TDP has boycotted the GoM and other parties too have stuck to their position on the issue.
The Congress, in tune with its consistent chicanery, has submitted two reports to the GoM, one for and one against the bifurcation. The PCC chief justified this by saying that the Congress units of both the regions have always been consistent with their demands and therefore the Congress as a whole is speaking in one voice! It took people a while to digest what was being said, but since the PCC chief is known to come up with such amazing logical explanations, most simply gave up.
The meetings did not last beyond a few minutes, clearly outing the intentions of the GoM. It will now be on record that the parties’ views were sought — so that they can later say that ‘everyone was consulted’! The GoM is meeting the secretaries of various departments, and is scheduled to meet the AP Chief Minister, N Kiran Kumar Reddy tonight at 8pm.
The Chief Minister, as we all know, is dead against the State’s bifurcation. This will be another futile attempt by him to convince his partymen on the perils of such a move! Meanwhile, the State Government is sending out various reports on how to deal with the impending bifurcation. There is severe criticism of the CM that while on the one hand he says that he will fight tooth and nail to ensure a united Andhra, on the other, his officials are sending out detailed reports to the Centre.
The GoM is again scheduled to meet on the November 18 to perhaps prepare a summary. News channel NDTV quoting sources reported that the Cabinet will take up the draft Telangana Bill on November 21. Since it is NDTV, it can quite safely be assumed that the source is quite reliable. Local papers have therefore calculated that the Bill will come up for discussion in the Assembly on November 25 and 26.
It is now confirmed that Digvijay Singh lied to the people of the State when he said that the Assembly resolution will be sought first. Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel any qualms about deluding the people of the State and keeping them in the dark about the facts on Telangana. It is our pity that this Congress leader lectures us on a daily basis on the impending bifurcation of the State, even as there are reports that a new Telangana PCC and Seemandhra PCC will be formed, with some names even being leaked to the media. The Congress supremo, Sonia Gandhi and her Government have continued to confound the people of Andhra Pradesh on this very emotive issue.
Assuming the date of November 21 when the draft Telangana Bill is to be purportedly taken up for discussion by the Cabinet is true, all eyes are now again on the GoM and its report. Will the GoM provide clarity? Or will they again hoodwink the people? As mentioned earlier, things are moving way too fast now — definitely not a good sign on what lies in store for Andhra!

The Hindu continues its rattle

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 

Over the past one week, three articles in The Hindu have caught my attention – one of them was on expected lines but the other two simply blew me away!
On November 6, I woke to this highlight on page 1 of The Hindu.
Hindu continues misinformed prattle on Modi
Though not surprised, I was keen to see if N Ram would have any new points to discuss. Or perhaps, he is bringing something new to light, because they are quite emphatic and confident that “Narendra Modi cannot be the PM”. Turns out that the article was just a rehash of the same old arguments/lies that an entire industry tried to grill into the minds of unsuspecting citizens of the country.
Sample this: “For one thing, there is plenty of evidence of the continuing immiseration and ghettoisation of Gujarat’s Muslims, who constitute a little over nine per cent of the State’s population.
A sweeping generalisation that has now become the hallmark of those who want to put up an argument against Narendra Modi. I didn’t know what ‘immiseration’ meant, so looked it up on Google – it means to make miserable; impoverished. Quite a serious charge this – an elected Chief Minister is deliberately making Muslim’s miserable and impoverished? Leave aside the “plenty of evidence” – this article does not even give a ‘single evidence’ of this sweeping charge.
Or sample this: “… the deliberate instigation of communal violence, reminiscent of the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom in Sri Lanka, through allowing the display of the bodies of kar sevaks.” As if there is no single riot in the country to compare it with, N Ram compares this to the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom in Sri Lanka! But that’s aside the point. The lie that is being repeated here is “through allowing the display of the bodies of kar sevaks”.
The Supreme Court SIT has tron and shred this argument to pieces in its detailed report on the incident. In its detailed report, explains clearly and precisely (pages 59-64) the entire timeline of how and why the bodies were transported (including the truck numbers) to Ahmedabad. The Amicus Curaie agreed with the extensive investigation of the SIT.
Hindu continues misinformed prattle on Modi
And then another sweeping generalisation:

“The politically aware also know where true accountability for 2002 lies. They know that, in sum, the role played by Chief Minister Modi and his Government was to enable the worst communal carnage India has suffered in the past quarter-century.” 

“Politically aware’? I am a reader of The Hindu for 20 years now. I totally disagree with these blatant conclusions by N Ram. Would he classify me as ‘politically unaware’? After all, my views have been shaped by reading his paper too – wonder where they picked up this habit of concluding that those who agree with them are ‘politically aware’? Notice how the benchmark of riots is now the ‘past quarter-century” !

N Ram harps on “Modi did not apologise” whilst the awesome Manmohan Singh has done so, for 1984 Sikh pogrom. This argument is the most pitiful of all – if N Ram and his ilk believe that  Modi is guilty of all that they accuse him of, why are they settling with an apology? Why don’t they demand proper justice? Why don’t they demand a jail term for him?
And then on Saturday, November 9, Praveen Swami made a comeback to The HinduThe article’s headline screamed – Rahul Gandhi is right on Indian jihadists. Surely, if the intent was to catch everyone’s attention, the intent succeeded well. So, I started reading to find out what is that Rahul Gandhi said about ‘Indian jihadists’ that an astute commentator like Praveen Swami got inspired to write about. Rahul Gandhi spoke about ISI contacting individuals in Muzaffarnagar to become terrorists. Praveen Swami wrote about the rise of Indian Mujahideen.
“…while Mr. Gandhi might be guilty of all of these things, the story he is telling is the unvarnished truth..”
Praveen Swami first summarised all the things that RG was accused of, by uttering that statement, and then tells us that the ‘story’ he told is the truth. Rahul Gandhi told no story. He merely said ‘those parties’ fan communal tensions and ISI has contacted Muslim youth in Muzaffarnagar after the recent riots. Swami used this line to tell us his story of how the Indian Mujahideen has evolved – even reminding us that “Indian Mujahideen never dropped its national identification”. The IM has been claiming that’s all its acts of violence are a revenge. What great truth has Rahul Gandhi revealed about IM that Praveen Swami wants us to take him seriously? In Swami’s own words, RG’s intervention was ‘incoherent and fumbling’ – yet we are take his ‘story’ so seriously that we ‘ought to be grateful’ to him?! Rahul Gandhi made serious allegations that need to be investigated, not complimented. Yet again, the establishment has failed in its duty but hey, we “ought to be grateful” you see!
However, what takes the cake is the front page story on Monday, November 11. Titled, “Gujarat Chief Minister in fresh history battle”, the report explains to us how he messed up the history of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Reading the first few paras, I was shocked – how can Modi get such basic facts so wrong? I continued to read and was even more shocked. This time – at this shameless attempt by The Hindu to cast aspersions on Modi, for what clearly was a genuine slip of tongue. Modi was talking about Shyamji Krishna Varma. And quite inadvertently mixed up his name with Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. He corrected that slip within a minute – as soon as it was pointed out to him. The Hindu’s cheap attempts at showing that Modi does not know history is belittling to its stature, to say the least.
The report also says that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded, “Over-excited BJP leaders change history and geography of the country.” Really? The PM responded to this particular speech of Modi? And the report published the response of Manish Tewari – incoherent and meaningless as always. Newly appointed editor of The Hindu, Malini P, claimed on twitter:
“PM aspirants have to be vigorously scrutinised by the media. A minimum knowledge of Indian history is critical if they want to lead India.” In isolation, there is nothing to disagree with this statement. But what Malini and The Hindu did today is totally unwarranted. To equate a slip of tongue to not knowing history is a cheap tactic – goes on to show that the industry that despises Narendra Modi will go to any extent to defame him – facts be damned!

100 days, and still not any wiser!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 

“I bow my head before the Congress Working Committee (CWC) decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. I request them to take back their decision regarding AP bifurcation.”
This epic level statement that gives the word contradiction a whole new meaning was given by the AP Congress president, Botsa Satyanarayana. And this statement in a way summarises the total confusion that Sonia Gandhi imposed on the people of the State.
It has been 100 days since the CWC announcement on Telangana was made. In multiple articles, we have captured the confusion that prevailed since day one. Even though 100 days have passed, Sonia Gandhi did not speak to the people of the State. For some weird reason, she found it not fit to even tour the State when it was badly affected by recent floods. So much for her care and concern for the people of Andhra Pradesh.
The Group of Ministers (GoM) she had constituted has suddenly picked up pace. In a surprise move, they have asked all political parties to respond to the terms of reference of the GoM. And the parties were given a whopping five days to respond back. However, the TDP has decided to boycott the GoM. The BJP is mulling over the contents of it’s reply yet.The Congress from AP sent two reports. One is a 100 page report from the Telangana unit of Congress. The other is a one page letter from the Seemandhra unit asking for a united AP!
The GoM now has given each party a whopping 20 minutes to present their case on November 12 and 13. Twenty minutes to seek opinion on a fundamental issue like the State bifurcation and then on the November 18, they plan to meet the Union Ministers from AP. But till date, we really don’t know officially what the GoM has discussed and how it proposes to resolve various contentious issues.
As usual, the leak department of Congress is in full flow. Various reports suggest that Hyderabad will be Union Territory, Hyderabad will be under Governor’s rule, Hyderabad’s status has not yet been decided etc! The worst part being that there is not even a semblance of clarity on when the AP Assembly will get to discuss this Bill. Fellow tweeter and blogger, KV Sarmaj commented that even after 65 years of Independence, the Union of India has no set of rules that govern the formation/split of a State! Digvijay Singh lied openly to the people of AP that the Assembly will discuss the issue twice. Now, Shinde says it will only be once – Digvijay Singh does not even bother to apologise or clarify. Isn’t it a shame that we rely only on precedents for an issue as basic as this? UPA’s contempt to established institutions is anyway known – atleast when dealing with redrawing boundaries, couldn’t they have formulated a more humane approach?
The Anthony Committee never visited AP. Sonia Gandhi last visited AP four years back. The GoM has no plans of visiting AP. Why is the human angle missing in this process? Why are people being left in the lurch? Why do we have to go through this ‘leak’ policy every single day? This dictatorial attitude of pushing through the Bill will rank as one of the worst disasters of Sonia’s UPA.
In these 100 days, the role of ‘national media’ has been near negligible. In any other major democracy, such lack of governance in a State for 100 days would grab national headlines. The farce of resignations that flew back and forth would have invited the wrath of the media. Perhaps, if AP was ruled by the NDA, then we would have got more eyeballs at the national level? When the announcement was made, reports suggested that Ghulam Nabi Azad was keen to complete the process within 180 days. Hundred days and we are still nowhere – wonder how they will complete the process in 80 more days!

What a farce!

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 

“It is not proper for me to say anything till I get a clear picture on why the meeting has been called for.”
This was how the Andhra Pradesh Congress Chief responded when asked about the All-Party Meet called by the Central Government (headed by his own party). If he himself has no clarity, what about ordinary mortals by us? When we first heard about the news of Shinde convening an All-Party Meet – I thought some sense finally dawned on the UPA – they have decided to discuss the issue in detail with the parties first! All such hopes evaporated into thin air within no time, this looked like another gimmick to score political points!
First of all, the parties were all given a whopping five days to come up with their suggestions on 11 ‘Terms of Reference’ of the Group of Ministers (GoM). Who gives five days to respond to such a serious issue? That too in detail? If this is not a farcical request, then what is? That’s not it. After they respond, then the Government will decide on a date to meet all their political representatives! So, an All-Party Meet has not yet been convened – it will be done at a later date – after giving five days to respond to 11 crucial terms of reference on how the State should be split!
And lastly, news reports are agog with analysis saying that this meet is being convened to put the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in a spot! With the Congress vertically split too – one wonders what tone the Congress will take in the All-Party Meet. Giving a mere five days to respond reinforces the argument that this is merely a political gimmick. Honourable Digvijay Singh has now given up on answering the query on when the State Assembly will get to discuss the Bill – it is really hard to believe that this man was at the helm when Madhya Pradesh was split. Atleast from experience he should be knowing what the procedure is!
Meanwhile, the protests on the streets have toned down. One of the primary reasons being the devastation created by the recent floods. The entire coastal Andhra Pradesh was battered with severe rains for seven continuous days. The politicians though continue with their ambiguous statements. One day, we hear they have submitted resignations, another day we hear that they have attended review meetings as Ministers! They continue to be equivocal on how they will help fulfill people’s aspirations from Seemandhra.
The Centre has setup a task force with many serving and retired IPS officers to come up with recommendations on how to divide police assets etc, and report on law and order problems that might arise. This is the only tangible step ever taken by the UPA – a step that is now shadowed by the decision on All-Party Meet. It has been more than three months since Congress Working Committee (CWC) decided. We are not any wiser. Today is Andhra Pradesh Formation Day – will this be the last AP Formation Day that we are celebrating as one State? Only time will tell!

Why is Hyderabad so important?

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 

Open Heart with RK is a popular programme which is aired on Telugu news channel ABN Andhra Jyothy. The programme is conducted by channel’s proprietor, Radhakrishna (RK). Recently, he hosted four farmers on his show – one from Telangana, one from Coastal Andhra Pradesh, one from Andhra region and one from Rayalaseema region. This was a welcome departure from listening to the gyan professed by arm chair heroes. We got to hear from the person on the ground on what his/her views are on the ongoing agitations.
The link for the programme is here and here. The discussion is in Telugu, and I will summarise the arguments of the farmers briefly below.
Farmer from Telangana: He came into limelight in 2008, when he had an interaction with Chandrababu Naidu and demanded a separate State of Telangana. He owns 1/2 acre of land. After the newspaper Andhrajyothy, highlighted this question, TRS chief KCR promised to give him two acres of land. Needless to say, it never happened. Irrespective of that, Malayya still insists on wanting a separate Telangana. He laments that all their water is merely going to Andhra region, and this is because of the State being united. He believes that their water is going waste and If Telangana were to be formed, this water will be his. He also believes that if he gets his own State, then his children will get better opportunity for education and jobs. He also says that he doesn’t trust political leaders much but very strongly believes that separate State will solve his problems.
Farmer from Rayalaseema: His argument is two fold. One that Rayalaseema will become a desert if a separate State of Telangana is formed. Two, all the progress so far the State has made with respect to jobs, education etc will be lost. Because we have such a good hub at Hyderabad, this progress was possible. He cited the example of his own son who came to Hyderabad, found an opportunity and has now settled well in other regions of the State as an area manager of a bank. He also cited an anecdote. If four brothers put in efforts to nurture a coconut tree, how fair is it that one brother comes back and says, I will take the coconuts, you keep the tree? The coconut tree reference here being Hyderabad.
Farmer from Andhra: She rose to fame during the 2008-2009 election in AP. She gave fiery speech at one of Chiranjeevi’s meetings and he was so impressed that he promised to give her an MLA ticket. RK asked her why she wants the State to be united. She said that it would be nice if all Telugu speaking folks are united. And it would be nice if Hyderabad still remains accessible to poor people like her. RK said that Hyderabad will still remain accessible, so why the fear and doubt? She says the feeling of Hyderabad being ‘ours’ will not be there, and therefore, it’s not the same thing. Incidentally, she has no relative living in Hyderabad and yet she yearns that the State be united for this reason.
Farmer from Coastal Andhra: His views are in consonance with the farmers from Rayalaseema and Andhra. When asked what is the solution to this problem, he said that the day you build one Hyderabad like city per district, then feel free to split the State!
On a recent visit to the north coastal district of Srikakulam, I saw a small welding shop owner displaying a United AP slogan inside the shop. No political party asked him to do so – he put it up on his own. His argument same as the farmers above – all of us should be united and Hyderabad should be accessible for jobs. While travelling in an auto, the auto driver himself asked me – “How is it even possible to build another capital like Hyderabad? Will anyone get as many opportunities that they can get in Hyderabad?”.  Students seek to know if they will ever get as many educational opportunities as they do in Hyderabad.
Now you might ask – why this fear? After all, the proposal is to merely split the State – not form a separate country! The reason for this fear is the freak vitriolic atmosphere created by certain leaders in Telangana. Prominent amongst them is KCR and his family. KCR once pompously said, Telangana wale jaago, Andhra waale bhago. In the age of electronic media, it picked up within no time. And within no time, KCR told us that he was misquoted.
In December 2009, his son KTR was asked this same question on NDTV’s We the People” – listen to his response (from around 49th minute). He says that slogan is only meant for those Andhra people who have come here as exploiters and plunderers! When asked how he would differentiate on who came to exploit and who didn’t, he goes about explaining the Visa system in the US in a bizarre attempt to draw a parallel! He then goes on to explain that about 59000 people from Andhra have come and settled here on the Government jobs; thereby breaking the terms of 610 GO issued by Government of AP. He was not ready to withdraw that slogan though.
There were freak attacks on hotels that displayed ‘Andhra meals ready’ – media as usual picked them up. YSR bought up this Visa comparison resorted to by KCR and family, in the 2009 election campaign too. Leaders from the Seemandhra region were quick to launch verbal attacks on KCR, and simultaneously compounding the fear in ordinary folks too by saying that if Telangana comes, we will all be asked to leave Hyderabad.
In 2013, just days after the Congress Working Committee resolution, KCR was at it again. Addressing the Government employees from the Telangana region, he said that the folks from Andhra will have to leave. There are no other options available! This again created a furore – with the media mischievously saying he meant all the people from Andhra! KCR was insisting (and continues to insist) that the Government employees from Andhra haveno option but to leave Hyderabad. Quite obviously, the employees from Seemandhra will not take this lying down. Nor would political leaders, union leaders and common folk.
The clamour for Hyderabad is because it is a hub of education, healthcare, employment, politics and opportunities. You name it and you have it. All premier institutes of education (even a Indian Institute of Oceanic Studies!) are in Hyderabad. All premier institutes of healthcare are in Hyderabad. Innocent folks on the streets of Seemandhra seek to know if they can go to Hyderabad now, for health checkups! So you might ask why was no other city developed like Hyderabad was?
Chandrababu Naidu sold the idea of Hyderabad as an IT destination in the late 1990s. At around 2004, after Hyderabad as an IT destination reached a formidable position, he came up with plans to make hubs in other cities too. After Congress won the elections in 2004, most of these plans were either terminated or executed slowly! Many large land allocations have gone into litigation (because of corruption charges against Congress Governments!) – so much so that the present Congress Government is cancelling land allotted by the previous Congress regime! Amidst all this, it just became easier to setup institutes/offices in Hyderabad itself. And here we are today, where a mere mention of having to give up on this large capital city is not acceptable to a large section.
But the awesome UPA Government and Sonia Gandhi have told us that this will be the joint capital for 10 years and then Andhra Pradesh can have it’s own new capital. So why worry? Simply put – no one remotely believes that it is possible to build a city that is even close to what Hyderabad is, right now. No one trusts any politician to be so efficient that in 10 years, another capital city as good as Hyderabad will come up. Hence the massive reaction against the idea of splitting up the State.
Despite multiple assurances by people in power that every citizen of India has the right to live peacefully in Hyderabad – the fear psychosis has not died down. The utterances of KCR (in whatever context) over the years have not at all helped this cause either. Remember the mass exodus of Northeast residents from Hyderabad and Bangalore? The fear is something similar to that – “how can we even dream of giving up on Hyderabad?” is the constant refrain of the protesting folks. It’s a deep sense of belonging that has become emotional now. What if, tomorrow, these people start blaming Andhra folks for losing jobs in the private sector too?
We need an inspired and transparent leadership to achieve a smooth bifurcation. Neither of which is being provided by Sonia Gandhi at the moment. If this continues, the fear factor will only increase – not subside.

The role of the Governor

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference. 

One of the many institutions that have been fiddled with or destroyed completely by Sonia Gandhi’s UPA, is that of the Governor. Three examples that immediately come to mind are the Bihar fiasco in 2005 (because of which the then President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam even wanted to step down from office!); HR Bharadwaj’s overt involvement in trying to topple the then Yeddyurappa Government; and Gujarat Governor’s blatant attempts to stall as many Bills as possible. Away from this media glare, Sonia Gandhi has effectively used the office of Governor in Andhra Pradesh to run her writ in the State.This is one of the most perfect example of using this post to undermine an elected State Government (this case is more uinique because this is her own party’s Government!).
In December 2009, EL Narsimhan was appointed as Governor after the great ND Tewari expose. The State was just beginning to go through it’s most tumultuous phase (the whole Telangana announcement and it’s subsequent withdrawal). Rosaih was the Chief Minister, and since he was perceived to be less competent to deal with such political matters, the new Governor was given the mandate of involving himself in matters of daily governance too. He even reviewed the law and order situation with police officials directly, without the CM or any Minister present.
Rosaih once advised his Ministerial colleagues something on these lines “I can’t do much. If there is anything else, please go to the Governor directly.” Ever since, EL Narsimhan continued to play an active role in important matters of law and order. Just so you forget, the people of Andhra Pradesh have elected the Congress to govern them. And at times of crisis, Sonia Gandhi found a solution in an appointed governor, not in any elected leader! The Governor himself has met Sonia Gandhi on various occasions over the last three years, to report to her on the happenings in the State. When questioned on this blatant transgression (by the local media of course, ‘national’ media couldn’t care less!), he merely replied – “Any citizen is free to meet Sonia Gandhi”!
And Narsimhan has again been summoned to New Delhi. This time for a four full days. He is scheduled to meet many Ministers. Perhaps, he will meet Sonia Gandhi too. Atleast till now, no meeting with the Prime Minister is scheduled – because PM is out of the country. Some strange timing this by the Governor (or is it by Sonia Gandhi?). Needless to say, the topic of discussions during his visit will be the bifurcation of the State. Perhaps, the UPA Government did not even talk to the Chief Minister in such detail, as much as they are talking to the Governor!
The Chief Minister of AP has given another statement on Sunday. On a visit to those affected by the recent Phailin Cyclone (he took one week to visit the areas – shows all that is wrong with this administration!), he said this: “I could not stop the Phailin Cyclone, but I will ensure to stop the bifurcation cyclone”. This open defiance of the Chief Minister obviously hasn’t gone well with Sonia Gandhi – and she therefore has fallen back on the Governor yet again! It’s like we have President’s rule without having President’s rule! Local newspapers have on Monday reported that the Chief Minister is planning to have the Government programmes based meetings in various districts and stress on the need for the State to be united. Even the PCC chief is now openly saying that he will strive to defeat the motion in Assembly.
In an unusual outburst, the Lok Satta party chief, Jayaprakash Narayan has demanded to know if the entity in New Delhi is a Government or a private company? At a time when various sections of people wish to meet the GoM and discuss their problems, GoM merely asked everyone to send an e-mail to them! This got to JP – who sees this is as another insult to the people. He has called for boycotting the GoM. He opines that this GoM lacks the seriousness and capability to handle such a complicated issue.
A few Union Ministers from Seemandhra are now toeing the line of the Congress high command. They have apparently reconciled to the fact that the State will be bifurcated. Now, they are merely making a ‘demand’ (read it as request or pleading!) that Hyderabad be made a Union Territory. If Sonia Gandhi decides that Hyderabad will not be an UT, even then these Ministers won’t resign. They will come up with some other excuse to cling to the office. What else can we expect from Congress folks?

Still no clarity after 80 days!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Posting it here for reference.

The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Kiran Kumar Reddy got so irritated with Digvijay Singh that he asked him why he and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde are not on the same page about the process to bifurcate the State! Digvijay Singh pompously declared that the AP Assembly will debate the issue twice. Shinde said the Assembly will only get the bill once. Even striking employees picked up on this point, asking how someone with basic or no knowledge of due process can handle the bifurcation. This confusion at the highest possible level summarises all that is wrong with the way Sonia Gandhi has handled the bifurcation process of Andhra Pradesh.
All the striking employees (nearly seven lakh of them!) have finally called off their strikes. Their major demand being the Union Ministers and MPs resign from their posts. The employees argued that the resignations of the public representatives will create a existential crisis for the UPA thereby, forcing Sonia Gandhi to rescind on her decision to split the State. The Chief Minister has had various rounds of discussions with the leaders of the employee unions, and has assured them in the strongest possible terms that he will ensure that the bill, when it comes to Assembly, will be defeated by an ‘overwhelming majority’. Please note that the Chief Minister himself is scheming to defeat the bill is to be sent by the Central Government which is ruled by his own party!
The biggest disappointment in this entire sordid saga has been the Union Ministers. Not one of them could stand up and show some spine – not one of them could chide Digvijay Singh for misleading the people of Andhra. For example, what purpose did the Antony Committee solve? Not a single Minister could muster the courage to question this insult to the people of the State. They could not muster the courage to question Shinde as to why he lied on the afternoon of October 3, saying there will be no Cabinet note? Every single day, these Ministers/MPs and MLAs rue that they have not been taken into confidence while such important decisions have been taken. And yet, they could not standup to this gross arrogance of Sonia Gandhi and Digvijay Singh.
Instead, they are simply enacting a drama of having ‘resigned’ and yet continue to be in office. They have simply been confined to issue some random statement at a Press conference almost everyday saying that they will fight for the rights of the people of Seemandhra! Nor, is there any unanimity amongst them on what the ‘rights of people of Seemandhra’ are! One says, he will fight for Hyderabad as Union Territory. One says he will fight for Hyderabad as the second capital of the country! One says he will ‘fight for justice’ – with no clue on what it means. One says that the only option acceptable is a united State! Amidst such confusion, what exactly can we expect from this lot?
The protests on the streets have not subsided though. People continue to protest in various forms. Digvijay Singh though has now analysed that the agitation in Seemandhra region has subsided and therefore all is well. There is regular speculation that the Government will be dismissed and President’s rule will be imposed. Shinde has denied having any such thoughts. Given his track record, this denial has further fuelled speculation that might soon be a reality!
Amidst all this, the dreaded power problem is back in AP. Early this year, we explained in detail, the serious power problem the State has been facing since 2011. After a couple of months of continuous power supply, the power cuts are back to haunt the people. This time, no formal announcement was even made – the power cuts just started happening! So the villages are back to having day long power cuts, while cities and towns have power cuts varying from 3 to 8 hours. The mis-governance of Andhra Pradesh is a prime example of how to throw away people’s mandate.
Now, we wait for the next phase to be unveiled. What more lies are in store for the people of AP? Will the GoM atleast bother to visit us once? When will the GoM report come in? What will happen in the Assembly of AP when this bill is taken up? How much more longer do we have to listen to the sermons of Digvijay Singh? These and many other questions dodge the minds of the people of the State. We wait not merely for answers, but answers with crystal clarity.