Telangana: A Leap of Faith

The result of the by-elections for 12 constituencies left vacant by the resignation of all the Telangana MLAs is out. K Chandrasekhara Rao led Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has scored a major victory over its more profound rivals – the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), by winning 11 out of the 12 seats. The remaining one seat has gone to the BJP which had a pre-poll tacit understanding with the TRS. The inevitable question that would be asked after the result aftermath is whether the landslide victory for the TRS is an indication of the popular mood in the Telangana region for the bifurcation of the state? Are we ready for yet another small state being carved out of its parent state or is the leap of faith too wide to take?

Ever since India became a free country, there has been a demand for a separate Telangana state. With the majority of Telugu speaking population being marginalized in the erstwhile Madras Presidency, Potti Sriramulu went on a hunger strike for 58 days for the creation of a separate state called the Andhra State out of the Madras state. He died in wake of his fast but his demands were met and a separate Andhra state was created based on linguistic lines. The region of Telangana which was under the Nizam rule at Hyderabad was included in the new state despite protests from various pro-Telangana groups. Hyderabad became the administrative seat for this new state.

There was a Gentleman’s Agreement that new jobs, welfare schemes, social and economic programmes would be initiated for the backward Telangana region, but as time passed by, millions of people from the coastal Andhra region migrated to the flushing Hyderabad region and made huge investments. Much of the benefits of the welfare schemes were being extended to the coastal regions. The Nagarjuna Sagar Dam and vast coal mines were in Telangana, but much of water and energy was supplied to the Andhra region. This led to a growing discontent among the people from the Telangana region and they were gripped by a fever of historic political betrayal. With subsequent governments at Hyderabad being indecisive and procrastinating on the issue, Telangana had all the ingredients to be a political hot potato.

TRS was formed on the premise of the formation of Telangana state. K Chandrasekhara Rao pulled a rabbit out of a hat when he sat on an indefinite fast and his populist shenanigans galvanized the public into mass protests and strikes all over Andhra Pradesh. For the former TDP man, whose personal political aspirations saw him conniving both with the BJP as well as the Congress; this was the moment of fame. He could see this as an opportunity to rule a state all by his himself. The political stalemate that followed has taken lives of innocent young men who have been made martyrs of the struggle. The equivocal stand of the incumbent Congress and the main opposition TDP has only added to the frustration and apathy among the public.

Politics in India has degenerated from the Gandhian style of non-violent approach to mob mentality driven which is not only anti-social but also a crime. Frequent protests choreographed by parties for their personal agendas have inadvertently brought normal life to standstill. Brand Hyderabad has certainly taken a beating because of the agitations. The IT Hub had to close down for few days and business was severely affected. Destruction of public and private properties has been a blemish in this city of Nizams. This has led to a lot of investors shying away from Hyderabad because of the uncertainty hanging over it. Real estate sector has had to bear the most, as prices have sky dipped and bookings and new deals have stalled. The official damage to the economy could run to thousands of crores. And all this for an issue for which no party can afford to commit to. Internal bickering has emerged in the parties over Telangana and the issue looks to be dragged on for some time.

The Central government in its part has constituted a committee led by Justice Srikrishna to examine the state of affairs in Andhra Pradesh. It would review and comment upon the development of different regions in the state and make a case of the social fabric of the Telugu speaking population. It would also make observations regarding the status of Hyderabad, as a Union Territory or a part of either of the states. These recommendations would then guide the government on taking a decision.

A case in point would be the three new states that joined the Indian Union: Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh. Jharkhand has been plagued by internal crises which have led to 7 CMs in the last 10 years. Naxalism and poverty have also been widespread in these states. Clearly, the basic targets why the states were created have not been met. Also, the division of states has brought in light small regional parties who can see their moment of glory in dividing up a state. Similar alarm bells have been sounded for Vidharbha in Maharshtra, Mithila in Bihar, Bundelkhand in MP and UP, and Gorkhaland in West Bengal. A dangerous precedent may be set which might affect the integrity of the Indian Union.

Going by past experiences, one cannot say that dividing a state can lead to a path of social, cultural and economic equality. There have been more failures than successes in this process. But at the same time the historical injustice meted out to the Telangana region cannot be forgotten. Political will for the development of the under-developed areas have to be the utmost importance. Petty politics for the sake of power will only lead to more discrimination and inequality. TRS and other pro-Telangana parties have to arise above their ranks and make sure that the struggle that has been going on for 60 years is not only successful but also inclusive and egalitarian. The poll results show that they have the support of the majority of Telangana people. With great power comes great responsibility – it’s time to put the age-old adage to test.

Ravish Prabhakar

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