The Congress decision to carve out a separate Telangana has been done keeping the electoral math in view. Jaganmohan Reddy may be in jail for now, but his YSR Congress, which remains very strong in Seemandhra (coastal Andhra plus Rayalaseema), still haunts them. Adding to this is Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit on August 11 where clearly the agenda is to make a grand announcement on Telangana. The BJP probably feels that with Jagan not in the picture in the region, Modi stands a good chance of establishing a base. In this light, the Congress decision on July 30 is a masterstroke.
Andhra Pradesh was in a state of deep crisis when Union home minister P. Chidambaram came out with his Telangana statement on the night of December 9, ’09. The Congress had worked out a strategy to contain the political crisis created by Jagan after ysr’s sudden demise through the 9/12 statement. The statement was brief but had enough in it to wean away the AP legislators and parliamentarians (of all regions) from what was known as the “Jagan camp”. Chidambaram’s statement virtually saved a government that was about to fall in 2009.
Then a drama unfolded in ‘Seemandhra’, consisting of 13 districts. The majority of lawmakers from the region put in their resignations and formed a Samaikhyandhra Joint Action Committee (JAC) to oppose bifurcation. Inside of a fortnight, Jagan’s camp was empty and the threat from that “dangerous boy” had disappeared. On December 23, ’09, came yet another PC salvo—consultations would continue, there would no resolution in the assembly. Now yet another drama unfolded on the other side, Telangana, made of 10 districts. In the process, the Congress state government survived. Jagan was by now in jail. In Telangana, the TRS, a new baby created by the Congress during the ’04 elections, was now a “threat under control”.
The bifurcation of a relatively developed south Indian linguistic state is entirely different from carving out, say, a Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand. The division of the Telugu linguistic state will have huge federal implications. Let us not forget the fact that all south Indian states are homogenised one-language states, with an identity built around language, just like Gujarat, Bengal etc. If the Telugu state is broken up, others might follow suit. (Mayawati has already come out with her own theory of small states which Mulayam Singh Yadav is now fiercely opposing.)
Even then the Congress went in for core committee meetings, hurried roadmaps and now this announcement. It’ll be interesting to see what Modi’s take on this is—whether he takes a contradictory position on a separate Telangana especially since he rides a ‘Gujarati linguistic nation’ within the Indian nation. In my view, the Congress has taken a risk with this decision. In an era of management politics, it has managed the UPA-II to its logical end. Mamata, Jagan, Anna Hazare, KCR, Baba Ramdev, Telangana, it’s all been managed. What next?
Ilaiah is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Hyderabad; E-mail your columnist: kanchailaiah AT yahoo.co.in