A tale of three states … and two cities
India’s capital city New Delhi and the joint capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Hyderabad have the dubious distinction of grabbing most of the headlines and space in newspapers in the last few days. Though the attention-grabbing reasons are different, the high dramas being enacted by principal leaders of respective ruling parties of the three states have a veneer of commonality.
While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have engaged in bitter blame-games over the state of affairs in Delhi, the leaders of truncated Andhra Pradesh and the one-year-old 29th State of Telangana are trying to prove their one-upmanship in Hyderabad.
In the political game of brinkmanship, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is pitted against the ruling party BJP at the centre, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are at loggerheads.
In fact, what has been going on in the national and the provincial capitals for over a year is not an overnight development. It is the culmination of rival parties – AAP versus BJP in Delhi and TDP versus TRS in Hyderabad – trying to outwit each other to gain political advantage and personal mileage. The turn of events and allegations flying thick and fast involving the main players in the four parties in Delhi and Hyderabad, particularly last week, have bared the ugly side of Indian politics and the depth to which they have descended.
First, the ongoing–and unending – battle between AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the BJP government at the centre. After his party’s spectacular victory in the Delhi Legislative Assembly elections earlier this year (67 out of 70 seats), Kejriwal had promised, among many other things, cordial ties with the union government to develop Delhi and make its administration corruption free. Instead of fulfilling his promises given to the electorate who had given him a massive mandate to govern the country’s capital despite his poor track record of running the government earlier, Kejriwal seems to have chosen a confrontationist path with the centre to resolve Delhi’s problems.
The row over appointment of bureaucrats with Delhi’s Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung, allegations of BJP government not allowing him to function and the daily verbal duels between the rival party leaders over allotment of funds and charges of encouraging AAP dissidents have virtually paralysed the Delhi administration.
A clear indication of it was the 12-day garbage workers’ strike that ended on Friday after Delhi High Court’s intervention and release of funds by Jung to pay salaries to the striking 15,000 workers. At the same time, the AAP government too had claimed that it had released money to clear arrears. The temporary measure has given much-need relief to Delhiites who had been swamped by mountains of garbage on roads and on the verge of falling sick.
However, the larger, and pertinent, issue is will the AAP patch up. In other words, will Kejriwal start governing the state striking a workable balance with the centre? On the other hand, will BJP leaders accept the fact that voters had given the Aam Aadmi Party a clear mandate and allow it to function as smoothly as possible? As it is, AAP, with dissentions, tainted lawmakers and all-round criticism of failing people, is facing the risk of being imploded. Should it happen, it’s a shame not only for the AAP and BJP that came to power with solid majorities at the centre and in Delhi state.
As the nation’s capital, Delhi should have been a model city for state capitals. On the contrary, it is known as the pollution capital of the world. Maintaining it as a great city is the responsibility of both the central and state governments even if rival parties are ruling. Squabbles over petty issues that lead to stinking situations make the city and the country a laughing stock in front of other countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaigns like Clean India don’t make any sense when his government turns a blind eye to keeping Delhi garbage-free to apparently settle scores with the Kejriwal government.
The crux of Delhi’s problem is the city’s duality: A state and the national capital, with municipal departments and government officials indulging in turf wars to nurse their bosses’ egos. The sooner the contentious issues that are playing havoc with civil life are resolved the better for the citizens of Delhi.
A similar situation, albeit with a difference, exists in the joint capital Hyderabad. With two governments whose party leaders don’t see eye to eye and spit fire at each other, the City of Nawabs is truly a happening place. If rival ruling party leaders can’t accommodate each other even after bifurcation and celebrating one year in power, how can they continue to work from the same capital for another nine years is anybody’s guess.
The cash-for-vote and wire-tapping allegations that continue to rock the two Telugu states are only the beginning of more dust-ups in the coming days between AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao. Personal tit-for-tat vitriolic attacks have become a daily affair of the two leaders. Sadly, as everybody knows, the disparaging remarks do no good for the two regions, which, after all have to coexist. Mutual recriminations further fuel the animosity created by vituperative and irresponsible statements being made by leaders from both the states.
At the same time, AP leaders in general and Naidu in particular have to come to terms with the reality that their state needs a capital and every effort should be made to realize their dream city as soon as possible. To boast of creating a world class city and the best capital in the country are easy promises to make. But taking the plans off the ground within a timeframe, even in phase-wise, is a gigantic task. It involves massive funding from the central government. If it not forthcoming, as expected, due to the undercurrents and simmering differences between allies TDP and BJP, Naidu’s dream capital will remain a grandiose idea.
A capital city of its own is not the only major issue for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Disputes over water and power sharing are already staring in the face of the two neighbouring states and they need to be resolved without much delay. The BJP, as a party to the reorganization of the Telugu state, can’t gloss over its moral and political obligations and see the two states prosper. If it eyes expediency, the two states will continue to be in perpetual war of words. The sufferers are people.