The drubbing that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) got in the elections winning only two seats puts a question mark on the fate of the movement for a separate Telangana state.
Political observers feel that the movement is finished now that the TRS had to bite dust in its own backyard. People have clearly expressed their opinion in this election. They are neither excited nor taken in by the promise of a separate state, says analyst I M Venkata Rao. I dont think they want a separate state,and,at least this time,they have expressed it loud and clear. The TRS forcibly fed on the issue creating a hype surrounding it. But it has been rejected and the party has fallen on its face, he says.
The TRS has been spearheading the movement since 2001,whipping up the sentiment based on alleged discrimination towards the Telangana region. The party quoted empirical evidence that Telangana with 42 per cent of the states population is given the short shrift when it comes to allocation of river water,employment,and irrigation facilities,and budgetary allocation for development of backward areas.
The TRS led by K Chandrasekhara Rao rose to prominence on these issues. It paid off in the 2004 elections when,in alliance with the Congress,it contested elections for the first time and won 26 Assembly seats and five Lok Sabha seats. However,the party started falling apart soon after when it started pressuring the Congress for a separate state 13 of its MLAs rebelled when asked to resign and chose to support the YSR-led Congress government.
The party got its first indication of things to come in the May 2008 by-elections for the seats that had fallen vacant after its MLAs resigned. The TRS could retain only seven of the 11 seats it contested. And of the four MPs,two lost. In this election,the party was almost routed,getting only 10 Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha seats.
But Telangana ideologue S Jaishankar,who supports the TRS,says the movement would never die. The movement is more than five decades old,it will never die. The setback to TRS is definitely a setback to the movement but that does not mean it is the end, he says. Political process is just one of the many facets of the movement and there will be ups and downs for any political party.
Jaishankar is sure the movement will rekindle because it was not a political party that started the movement. The demand for a separate state was started by Telanganas intelligentsia,poor farmers,angry coal miners,unemployed youth and the people in general, he says. The TRS is not the first party that has tried to address the demand at a political level. There were the Telangana Praja Samiti,Telangana Jana Sabha,and Telangana Mahasabha before the TRS which tried to take it up at a political level but failed. If the TRS does not introspect and come up with a different policy to take this forward,some other party will take it up.
I feel that from the cauldron of unemployed youth,disgruntled coal miners,farmers and intelligentsia,something will form which will take the shape of a political party very soon and bring the movement back on its right path, he argues.
Whether the TRS would be able to make a comeback or not is also a question because there seems to be a leadership crisis in the party. Party chief KCR barely managed to win from Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha constituency and he has only one MP colleague popular actor Vijaya Shanti. KCRs leadership skills are being questioned within the party and his integrity is under scrutiny after he secretly went and joined the NDA after contesting the polls under the Grand Alliance with the TDP and Left.
Analysts are writing off the movement based on the fact that in Telangana,the Congress,which never spelt out its stand on the issue of a separate state,got more votes and seats than the TRS and TDP,which turned coat and promised a separate state. Considering that Parliament has to pass a bill to create a separate state and the UPA only promised to look into their demand in principle while a sub-committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee goes into the pros and cons of it,the Congress performed much better than the TRS and TDP,winning 12 of the 15 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana region. This is a clear indication of where the movement is going.