For Hyderabadis, depending on their views on the formation of Telangana, the new year has come bearing the promise of triumph for some and trepidation for others. The political atmosphere in Andhra Pradesh, which slipped into a state of chaos after the Congress announced the carving out of a separate state last year, has entered its final stages of tumult as the country moves towards a high-voltage Lok Sabha election campaign. Even as a strong anti-corruption mood determined the election results to the Delhi Assembly, undivided Andhra Pradesh seems to be going to polls with a single question mark: to split or not.
The previous year saw a deep fissure form between various parties in the state Assembly — dividing them on the lines of pro- and anti-bifurcation. That has not meant the parties have not been practical enough to gauge the spoils coming their way in the post-bifurcation scenario. The Congress itself has gone into a damage control mode with its various tentacles tending to the wounds within the deeply divided party. Whereas there is anticipation of a complete sweep in Telangana, the party is preparing to be decimated in the residual Andhra Pradesh with its own Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy being on the verge of quitting the party.
The CM, who took an unexpected course of defiance against the party high command, is in fact all set to form a new party, taking along several MLAs with him. Rumour has it that the former cricketer is planning to form a pro-Seemandhra party with a batsman as the poll symbol. Juxtapose the fact that statues of Nehru-Gandhi family leaders have been vandalised in Seemandhra, while a temple with ‘goddess Sonia’ has sprung up in Hyderabad, built by a pro-Telangana Congress MLA, and one has a clear picture of where the party stands.
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which has maintained a steady stance of merging with the Congress in the event of the creation of Telangana, has developed cold feet of late. A scenario where all the Seemandhra MLAs resign and the possibility of President’s rule being imposed in the state until the Assembly polls, which might be held along with the General Election in April, is apparently a cause for worry within the TRS camp. The party is finding itself in a tricky situation of having to figure out a future course for surviving and flourishing.
It is also curious to see that the students who played a key role in the Telangana agitation have begun to make their moves, too. Most student leaders have chosen their political parties and are trying to get MLA tickets. Krishank Manne, a popular student leader from Osmania University, who has been at the forefront of the agitation, is all set to join the Congress and contest from the prestigious Cantonment seat in Secunderabad.
“It is clear that the parties like the Congress have realised the value of those who have fought for the Telangana cause,” he says. “It is also heartening that the party, especially Rahul Gandhi, has spoken about the upliftment of Dalits and weaker sections. As students, we have taken the beatings with lathis and the teargas. Why shouldn’t we stake claim in the vision of the new state?”
Amidst this din, there is also the emergence of an unheard force in Andhra politics: the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Many prominent personalities, including student leaders, Dalit activists and popular editors are said to be joining AAP just in time for the Lok Sabha election. One of the most prominent names doing the rounds is that of Lok Satta leader Jayaprakash Narayan, who too gained popularity by fighting on the anti-corruption plank.
“AAP leaders such as Yogendra Yadav and Manish Sisodia had expressed their support for the creation of Telangana. In the current situation, AAP seems like the much needed alternative,” says a prominent student leader, who hints at approaching AAP for a Lok Sabha ticket.
On the other side of the battle, Jaganmohan Reddy, who has carefully played his part as the rising phoenix after his release from prison, has made a unified Andhra Pradesh his biggest poll plank. His Samaikyandhra Sankharavam, which are being held all over the state, is making a sole claim that YSR Congress will put a stop to bifurcation after winning 30 seats in the Lok Sabha polls — the assumption being that the Telangana Bill will not be passed by Parliament with this government around. Even as he is expected to sweep the polls from Andhra, his theatrics are being termed bizarre.
On 8 January, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly came under tremendous pressure from various lobbies to debate the draft Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013. The YSR Congress MLAs, who camped in the well of the House, refused to relent on their sloganeering and carry out any debate. The YSR Congress issued a statement saying that any debate was “tantamount to accepting the division of the state” and demanded a resolution in favour of a united state.
“Both Jagan and Kiran Kumar Reddy want to be seen as the saviours of Seemandhra. It’s a crown they want for deceiving people,” says TRS leader Kavitha Kalvakuntla, the daughter of party supremo K Chandrashekar Rao. “Jagan is assuming that the bifurcation will not happen before the election. Hence they are creating a ruckus in the Assembly. The YSR Congress and other pro-Seemandhra leaders believe that they can stall bifurcation in the Assembly. Article 3 is very clear on the creation of a state. We have suggested some amendments to the draft Bill on the creation of Telangana. Thankfully, the Congress and Soniaji seem very determined on the creation of Telangana. The Lok Sabha will pave the way for creation of Telangana in the coming months.”
Despite such optimistic posturing by the proponents of Telangana, there is plenty of anxiety over the passage of a Bill that will finally lead to the creation of a new state. Even though national leaders of both the Congress and the BJP have expressed unflinching loyalty towards the creation of Telangana, speculation is rife that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi might backtrack on the promise if the party comes to power at the Centre. This is troubling news for the TRS as well as many others who have fought for a separate state. With both Jagan Reddy and TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu having expressed their willingness to form an alliance with the BJP if it comes to power, some pessimists see the future as getting only murkier.
“Telangana is constantly mired in uncertainty. There have been four occasions where states were divided. All of them happened peacefully. However, a strong Andhra lobby with mighty financial interests in Telangana has ensured the region remains in political turmoil,” says Zaheeruddin Khan, managing editor of prominent Urdu daily Siasat. “Politically, each party has its self-interest at the heart of their so-called ‘movements’. It is always back to the roots for many of these politicians, who have massive financial interests in Telangana, especially Hyderabad.”
Those with political interests are bound to take the directions they must. However, brewing resentment in the minds of the people in Andhra Pradesh with opposite views on bifurcation is deepening further, too. The new year might prove to be a closure or exacerbate those feelings further, depending on which side one makes peace with.