A former professor of the Osmania University who had once opted to stay away from politics after successfully leading a massive students’ agitation for a separate state of Telangana in 2014, M Kodandaram is now considered pivotal to the ‘Prajakutami’ or ‘People’s Alliance’ — an emerging entente between the Congress, TDP (Telanana), Telangana Jana Samithi and CPI that has rattled the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Kodandaram is not only deciding the manifesto for the ‘Prajakutami’, but also driving a hard bargain in its seat-sharing talks. He also exduded confidence that the fledgling TJS will win at least 10 seats and demanded that his party be allowed to choose the constituencies to contest from. And despite reservations, alliance partners — Congress, TDP (Telanana) and CPI — have conceded that Kodandaram is critical to the alliance.
“As head of Telangana Joint Action Commission (TJAC), he had united the people of Telangana to fight for separate state. He has his ear to the ground. He is an important partner,” CPI state secretary C Venkat Reddy said.
According to sources, Kodandaram’s resolve to play a pivotal role in the alliance stems from his belief that Telangana’s first elected government has failed to address even the basic aspirations of its people.
“The demands that led to the Telangana agitation have not even been recognised by the government after creation of the state. The opinion of civil society and social organisations, which supported or fought for a separate state have been ignored or totally sidelined… There is no opportunity to raise issues concerning the masses,” he told The Indian Express recently.
In an interview to The Indian Express in 2014, Kodandaram had said that he won’t join politics, but instead work in civil society forum. “If Telangana people’s aspirations, for which they fought, for are not realised, then I will step in again. If the TRS is smart, it won’t let such a situation to arise,” he had said then.
Claiming that things have changed since then, Kodandaram said: “Organisations encounter a dead end when they approach the government… Either the elected representatives or ministers do not have the power or they simply dismiss the petitioners as an inconvenience. This lack of opportunity to interact with the government and resolve people’s issues has caused resentment among a lot of people… It was not so bad even during the Congress regime, and people are looking for change. This is what prompted me to launch the TJS as a party that will recognise and understand the democratic aspirations of people and represent them in the political sphere.”
After retiring from the OU in 2015, Kodandaram had studied the political models of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) before launching the TJS. “The AAP and the BSP have a different kind of political models. I think TJS will also succeed like them as a true representative of people’s aspirations,” he said.
Kodandaram, who endorsed the idea of a political alliance in Telangana and helped strengthen the bond between the Congress, TDP (Telanana), CPI and TJS, said that in spite of getting a good mandate, the TRS did not deliver.
“TRS failed to fulfil even its own election promises and has let Telangana people down. Instead of focusing on welfare of people, TRS leaders are working for their own benefits. No questions from people are tolerated. In the villages and rural areas, people have started referring to TRS as ‘Doralu’ (landlords) and ‘Doralu palem’ (rule of landlords). Before creation of Telangana state, TRS was not projected or protected by media. It was civil and social groups which nurtured and protected the party. By shutting them out, the TRS has left no space for them to articulate themselves in the political sphere,” Kodandaram said.
He added that until the ‘Prajakutami’ was formed, people “did not think that the TRS could be replaced or there could be an alternative to it”. Kodandaram said people have appreciated the programmatic approach of the Prajakutami — a programme on “what, how and by when the alliance government will go about fulfilling the aspirations of people”.
“It is an amazing experience since the last few months to listen to the aspirations of civil society groups and social organisations. Instead of political parties deciding the manifesto, we are asking the people to set the manifesto and agenda for us, and the response is amazing,” he said.