Wonder if Sushil Kumar Shinde was punished at school for not completing his homework on time. Now in his avatar as Union Home minister, he faces a police case of cheating for not delivering on his promise of a decision on Telangana within a month. A court in Andhra Pradesh has ordered that a similar case be booked against Shinde’s predecessor, P Chidambaram, who promised statehood to the region on December 9, 2009 only to backtrack a fortnight later.
The Congress party’s refusal to adhere to any deadlines on Telangana has provided that spark to this emotional struggle for a separate state. With elections just 14 months away, this has galvanised the two principal pro-Telangana parties, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into action. Both hope to ride on the crest of the Telangana wave to maximise their electoral strength in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha.
The BJP, like an efficient marketing person, has sought to make itself look more attractive by reducing the time in which it will give Telangana. Last year, Sushma Swaraj had promised that her party will make Telangana a separate state within 100 days of coming to power in Delhi. Today Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi reduced that period to 24 hours.
The TRS that does not quite appreciate the saffron party competing for space, has upped the ante, its tone more shrill, promising to write the political obituary of the Congress in the region. The demands have been familiar: resign from your posts and party. The only issue with it is that Andhra Pradesh has seen this charade being played out too many times, with MPs, ministers, MLAs resigning only to find the Speaker sit on it for long and subsequently rejecting them.
Seven of the twelve Congress MPs from Telangana have promised to resign on Tuesday but privately they admit to being pushed to a corner. A first-time MP told Tehelka that he still hopes that the Congress may deliver Telangana and a show of defiance may spoil his chances of getting the party ticket next year.
Surprisingly, the Telangana ministers in Kiran Kumar Reddy’s cabinet have struck a defiant note, refusing to quit. Over the next few days, they will be subjected to physical attacks at their homes, like it happened on earlier occasions. The Telangana Joint Action committee is also mooting boycotting them socially in the districts though it is not clear how they will manage to implement it.
Civil society activists, including students and government employees, who thronged the protest venue at Indira Park have no choice but to go with the political forces that are marshalling the agitation, even though they are skeptical of them. They realise that the same TRS that is badmouthing the Congress today was hobnobbing with it in Delhi three months ago. TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s habit of abruptly switching off the agitations in the past too has created doubts in the minds of Telangana votaries about what exactly is happening behind the scenes between the party and the Congress.
Politically, the procrastination is anything but good news for the Congress. It is certain to draw a blank in most districts of Telangana, both due to the T-factor and because its governance record has been very mediocre. The challenge for the party is to take a call on what is good for its political prospects as well as the state and the country. Coming clean on what it plans to do on Telangana would be better than taking refuge in redefining a week or a month, Ghulam Nabi Azad-style.
While the TRS will be the biggest gainer, it also realises that it cannot be in agitation mode for more than a year. The challenge will be to keep the gunpowder ready, to be able to reignite the movement any time it wishes to. Having won only 26 and 10 MLAs in 2004 and 2009 respectively, next year’s polls will provide it the opportunity to come of age.
For the common man in the Telangana districts, and Hyderabad in particular, the days of police barricades, protests, bandhs and sloganeering are back. A matter of worry for parents and students since exam season is nearing. None of this will do any good to Brand Hyderabad.