The BJP rally at Nizam College grounds on March 11 took off to a promising start with some of its star leaders in attendance such as Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Bandaru Dattatreya and Kishen Reddy. Rajnath Singh delivered a rather schizophrenic speech congratulating both the people of Seemandhra and Telangana on the bifurcation. He made the by-now familiar argument about how the BJP-led NDA had delivered three new states in an atmosphere of peace and consultation. "The Congress-led UPAon the other hand has created an atmosphere of animosity between bhai-bhai and is directly responsible for the suicides of 1,100 youths who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Telangana," he said. Ironically enough, even as Rajnath Singh was deriding the Congress for being unable to control Naxalism, a deadly Naxal attack took place in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh which left 16 security personnel dead. Whatever be Rajnath's observations, some of his party members should perhaps educate him that Andhra Pradesh is one state where Naxalism has been crushed very successfully. In fact, the AP model has become an example to tackle the scourge of Naxalism across the country.
Hinting at a Telugu Desam-BJP tie-up, Rajnath Singh said that the BJP is likely to work with the TDP in the municipal elections. This can be considered an important development since the BJP has so far refrained from making any public announcement. Some political experts felt that the BJP would lie low till the elections got over and then pick an ally. But it now appears that Chandrababu Naidu in all likelihood will enter a pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. This might help the TDP strengthen its position in both Seemandhra and Telangana and ride a possible Modi wave.
The Telugu Desam is also wooing actor Pawan Kalyan who is all set to enter the political fray himself. In the 2009 elections, Pawan Kalyan's elder brother Chiranjeevi (who hails from the Kapu community) had eaten into the TDP votebank with his Praja Rajyam Party. The TDP was hoping to draw several Kapu votes by offering tickets to leaders from this community. If Pawan Kalyan does form a party, it would be circa 2009 for the TDP which the opposition party is desperate to prevent. In fact, Chandrababu Naidu has extended an invitation to both Pawan Kalyan and Jai Samaikyandhra Party chief Kiran Kumar Reddy to join him as allies. While Kiran Kumar has openly ridiculed the suggestion, Pawan Kalyan is yet to say anything on the matter.
The Congress has named Anantapur strongman and revenue minister N Raghuveera Reddy as the PCC chief for the 13 districts of Seemandhra. Information and technology minister Ponnala Lakshmaiah has been named the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee chief. Lakshmaiah hails from Warangal district and Both Raghuveera Reddy and Ponnala are leaders from the BC community. This way, the Congress has partially delivered on its promise of giving key posts to leaders from weaker sections.
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Union minister Jairam Ramesh has done it again. Put his foot in his mouth. At a public meeting in Karimnagar, Ramesh grandly announced that the Congress would appoint a Dalit as CM if it comes to power in Telangana. The statement was meant to embarrass TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao who had earlier announced that a Dalit would be made CM. But lately, KCR has pushed that promise to the background and has been hinting that he might take up chief ministership if his party were to win. In fact, if TRS sources are to be believed, the merger talks with the Congress fell through because the latter was unwilling to bequeath the CM's gaddi to KCR. While that is in the past, Ramesh's recent statement created consternation among the Telangana Congress leaders, many of whom belong to the Reddy or BC community. Realising his folly, Jairam Ramesh was singing a different tune by the time he'd reached Nizamabad. "The Congress believes in Panchasutra. It will strive to choose a leader from SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women as the chief minister," said the union minister.
Kaun Banega CM?
This brings one to the issue of chief ministerial candidates. Every party other than the Congress knows who its CM candidate is. The Telugu Desam has Chandrababu Naidu, Jai Samiakyandhra has Kiran Kumar Reddy, the YSR Congress has Jaganmohan Reddy and TRS has KCR. But no one knows who the Congress CM candidate in either Seemandhra or Telangana is. A Congress leader in Karimnagar says that this is but natural when Rahul Gandhi himself has not been announced as the prime ministerial candidate of the UPA.
Recently, while waiting to meet a politician, I spent some time with a fellow journalist from Delhi who works with Lok Sabha TV. There is tremendous interest in Andhra Pradesh politics these days, she informed and then went on to ask why Jayaprakash Narayan's Lok Satta was not having the same kind of impact as the Aam Aadmi Party. The immediate response I can think of is that Telugus are voters who look at parties which deliver. They have seen enough corruption, scams and party-hoppers to last them a lifetime. They have just emerged from a bifurcation. They aren't really looking at hit-and-run specialists like Arvind Kejriwal. Besides, to put Narayan in the same category as Kejriwal, in my opinion is a gross insult to the former. Jayaprakash Narayan for one would never be caught either off-record or on-record instructing a journalist on what quotes to highlight. Also, the Telugu media might be divided on regional lines. But I am yet to come across a single scribe in Hyderabad who actually takes instructions from a politician as to what aspects of an interview can be played up.
Sounds of Silence
As for the Lok Sabha TV blackout during the crucial passage of the AP Reorgnisation Bill, all the employees have apparently been asked to put up a blank face and say nothing. Reminds me of the song by Ronan Keating, You say it best when you say nothing at all.