Eight months after it last flared up,the issue rearranges the political chessboard
The Telangana agitation is stirring again. Pro-Telangana parties and groups are preparing for the Telangana March on September 30,when more than one lakh people are supposed to join rallies in Hyderabad and lay siege to the state secretariat. A similar event last year resulted in mindless violence; protestors desecrated and vandalised the statues of cultural icons on Necklace Road. After a series of general strikes,with even government employees hailing from Telangana refusing to work for 45 days,the Telangana statehood issue was put on the backburner as the Centre refused to budge.
Now,after eight months of peace,renewed investor confidence,and real estate picking up,the Telangana issue is coming into play again. Sonia Gandhi held talks with senior leaders on Monday to discuss an all-party meeting on Telangana,but nothing was decided and the issue continues to simmer and gather momentum.
In the run-up to the Telangana March,students of Osmania University and the police clashed on campus this Monday,after they were refused permission to lead a procession to the state assembly,which was in session. This time,Telangana leaders say,it will be a fight to the finish. The resolve is reflected in a letter written to Sonia Gandhi by 13 cabinet ministers from Telangana. They have requested her to announce the separate state of Telangana immediately,before the situation goes out of control. Congress ministers have so far shied away from direct involvement.
To attract international attention,the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC),which has been steering the protests,has warned that it will disrupt the international bio-diversity meet in Hyderabad,scheduled to begin on October 1,in which delegates from 180 countries are expected to participate.
The positions of political parties have also changed in the last few months,giving a fillip to the Telangana demand. The Telugu Desam Partys (TDPs) N. Chandrababu Naidu has finally decided to support the Telangana demand after numerous flip-flops. It is a tricky decision for Naidu. If the Telangana state becomes a reality,the TDP stands no chance of winning in the separate state. Meanwhile,the partys base in coastal districts and Rayalaseema is eroding because of its support for Telangana. The YSR Congress Party,floated by Jaganmohan Reddy,had initially stood for a united Andhra but has now come around. The growing influence of BJP in parts of central Telangana is also working up the sentiment for a separate state again. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS),which has spearheaded the movement since 2001,has offered to merge with the Congress if a separate Telangana state is declared. It could be a chance for the Congress to lay claim to power in the proposed state and make up for the losses in the rest of Andhra Pradesh,where it is expected to perform badly in the 2014 elections. In by-elections held in June this year for 18 assembly segments,the Congress managed to win only two while 16 were won by YSR Congress. For the ruling Congress,it is a catch-22 situation. Legislators and MPs from the coastal districts and Rayalaseema are threatening to resign if the state is bifurcated. On the first day of the state assemblys monsoon session,Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy dismissed the TRS demand for passing a resolution on Telangana,saying that it would be defeated because all political parties were divided over the issue of a separate state.
Political analysts,however,feel that Telangana sentiment has actually fizzled out and that the Telangana March on September 30 is a desperate bid to corner the ruling Congress on the eve of the international bio-diversity meet. They point to the bickering between TJAC and TRS,both keen to gain the upper hand. In the process,the Telangana movement has lost steam and direction. The TRS wants total control over the agitation while TJAC is chalking out its own course. TRS President K. Chandrasekhar Rao is apparently unhappy with the TJAC for cornering all the credit for leading the Telangana agitation last year. So when the TJAC announced that it would relaunch the agitation with the Telangana March,KCR reportedly tried to scuttle such plans by announcing in public that he had been assured by the Centre that a separate Telangana state would be declared very soon,and if that did not happen then there would be total anarchy in Telangana. The TJAC was supposed to restart the agitation from August 15 with a chalo Hyderabad call but after KCRs confident statements,it was forced to postpone plans to September 30.
The TJACs convenor,M. Kodandaram,a political science professor at Osmania University and a mentor for the thousands of Telangana students,and KCR do not see eye to eye anymore. The demise of Telangana ideologue K. Jayashankar last June and the decline of balladeer G. Vittal Rao,popularly known as Gaddar,as well as last years agitation fatigue have slowed down the movement.