The Telangana Tangle: Biggest Loser Congress?

Posted in politics by armalcolite on December 22, 2009

On 9th December, 2009, Danny Cahill became the biggest of Biggest Losers by losing an astonishing 239 pounds. But the way the Congress is handling the Telangan issue, they seem to be in a greater hurry than Cahill to shed their political wieght in Andhra Pradesh.

The fast for Telangana by KCR was a comedy of errors from Day 1. When the history of the Telangana is written, writers will probably chose to ignore the fact that KCR’s fast was a politically motivated one, or that he was forced to take the fast more seriously after being caught consuming a glass of juice on the second day. Far from being a struggle for statehood, KCR’s fast was a fight for political relevance after the drubbing in the elections earlier in the year. In fact the situation got so dire for KCR that at one stage it came to be known that he had clamped down his demand from demanding separate statehood to settling for talks with the centre. So, in effect a problem that could have been solved by holding talks, the old-fashioned way has now blown out of proportion, and it gets worse. This is not to discount the volatile situation that arose out of the largely student led movement for a separate Telangana, but as a political call by the Congress, there were other alternatives to jumping the gun on the issue.

Further, within Andhra Pradesh too, this was one crisis the Congress could have done without. It is no secret that Rosaiah is running a divided house following the unfortunate demise of YSR. With the splitting up of the state, the Congress has gone ahead and given itself an additional cause of worry with its members now squabbling over another issue. To further complicate the issue, Chief Ministerial aspirant YS Jagan has made no bones about where he stands on the issue by calling for a unified Andhra.

The Congress’ position in Andhra Pradesh is unique compared to most other states as, not only is it the only national party in a political landscape dotted by regional parties, it also controls the state. What this also translates into is that while other parties are driven by strictly regional considerations, the Congress has to keep in mind larger, national interests. So from such a standpoint, creating Telangana might not be such a bad call. But given the intervening circumstances the Congress couldn’t do better even if it wanted to hurt itself. For, the Congress has through the years exploited the Telangan issue for political mileage while not doing anything about it, meaning that it had no real stand on the issue. The other parties on the other hand have their roles cut out with the TDP (though Chandrababu Naidu has remained quiet on the issue) and PRP opposing Telangana for a unified Andhra and the TRS taking a diametrically opposite stand. Cometh the hour, they just fulfil their designated roles while the Congress, having soothed egos on both sides finds itself in no man’s land.

Evan at the Centre, the Congress finds itself in an unenviable position. Having on the one hand recognised Telangana and on the other ruled out the creation other states such as Gorkhaland, it can be construed that the Congress is applying double standards. But as in the case of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress in it’s all accomodating policy of yore simply does not have a stand on the issue of creation of new states. On the other hand, the BJP having carved out Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand has gone on record to say that smaller states make for balanced development. The BJP even supports the Gorkhaland cause having allied with the GJM for the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat. With parties taking up either side of the debate, the Congress finds itself alienating both sides by either carving out new states or not creating enough, much like Gorbachev embracing Western ideas towards the end of the Cold War.

However, given the right strategies, the Congress can still pull itself out of the rut (a rather large one) it finds itself in. Since it has already announced the creation of Telangana, it cannot retract its announcement and must find a way of amicably settling the issue. Hyderabad has occupied the centre of this debate and finding a way to balance the Telangana claim for the city on the one hand while not compromising on the development and finding adequate recompense for the other side is paramount. This does not require a miracles solution, but does require a lot of time for tempers to fall and vested interests to take a back seat. As is evident from the actions of the centre, the issue itself will be resolved in a matter of months rather than days. As regards other ‘demands’, most of them seems to be seeking the limelight rather than statehood. However, in the days to come future governments will be (or should be) more wary of conceding to demands for statehood. The focus must now be on damage control to quell dissent within party ranks.


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