Senior Congress MP K Keshava Rao tells Kunal Majumder that his party has made mistakes in tackling the statehood issue
How did you end up at the same press conference as BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, who went on to attack the Central government on the Telangana issue?
It was an all-party meeting that the Delhi Telangana Joint Action Committee had organised to which I was invited. Ravi Shankar Prasad was also present.
You attacked P Chidambaram for flip-flopping on the issue. Doesn’t targeting a Congress minister in the presence of a senior Opposition leader amount to party indiscipline?
I’m not attacking anybody. It is the Congress that promised something and it has to uphold its promise. This is not a party issue. This is a people’s issue. It concerns four crore people who have been promised statehood time and again during the past five decades.
Recently, in his reply to Sushma Swaraj, the home minister said that the Congress has never taken a stand on Telangana. So I wanted to remind him; what is the meaning of the Congress Working Committee resolution? What about the Congress manifesto? What about the UPA Common Minimum Programme? What about the presidential address? What about the government resolution passed in the AP Assembly? What about his statement on 9 December? He can say he is facing some problems but how can he say that the Congress never took any stand on the issue? I have lost face in both Telangana and Andhra regions.
Hasn’t the BJP been more consistent than the Congress on the issue?
The BJP has just two members in the Assembly. They only bring flags and shout slogans. That is why I told Prasad that his party has failed us. But let’s forget that. For me, Telangana is not about partisan politics. It is a people’s issue.
Despite so many resolutions, why do you think the Congress high command is hesitant now?
They are trying to take on board people of all regions in Andhra Pradesh. There is some kind of resistance from the other side. The high command wants to take them along because this is not just a political issue but also a social one. They wouldn’t like to create a political divide, which will turn into a social divide. We will not like to create any kind of animosity between the regions.
Prasad also criticised Justice Srikrishna in your presence and said that he has been used for political purposes. Do you agree with his statement?
I have criticised Justice Srikrishna more than Prasad. We expected objective views from a man who is known for his legal acumen. Instead, he wrote a secret chapter in his report — which we got to see thanks to a court order — that said how I can be bought, how Congressmen should be placated, how the media should be manipulated, how students should be tackled with rubber bullets, etc. I don’t think any commission gives such draconian recommendations.
You also mentioned that there is a limit to your patience. Has the party high command or the government given you any time-frame for the creation of a separate state?
Initially, they said two months. That deadline ends on 30 September. Nowhere have all the ruling party members resigned over an issue. All 113 MLAs have resigned. All the ministers from Telangana have resigned. Out of 14 MPs, 11 have quit. One from the Rajya Sabha has also resigned. For three days, all of Telangana region was at a standstill. Not a single bus is plying but the government is organising the public service commission exam. For the past three months, there has been no Cabinet meeting and you think the government is running the state? Our patience is running out.
Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.