Who gets credit for Telangana?
It is more than a decade since the Congress party promised separate statehood for Telangana, more than a year since it formally accepted the demand and Parliament passed the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill, and nine months since the new State of Telangana came into being.
Long after these milestone political developments, the question who gets credit for realising the dream of the Telangana people continues to be subject of debate. The Congress party claims sole credit for making Telangana state a reality. The BJP, a votary of smaller states, argues it would not have been possible without its crucial support in Parliament. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), formed with the sole agenda of achieving statehood, maintains it has natural entitlement for the feat.
The Congress party loses no opportunity to trumpet the role of its president, Sonia Gandhi, and assert that she and she alone granted the statehood. Its leaders insist that the people of Telangana ought to be grateful to the madam for the favour. At a recent meeting chaired by Ponnala Laxmaiah as president of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee, his last in that capacity, seniors reiterated their gratitude to her. It celebrated the first anniversary of Parliament adopting the bifurcation bill with distribution of sweets and bursting of crackers.
The UPA Government led by it slept over the statehood demand for well over a decade on one ground or the other – consensus building or fear of inviting similar demands from other States etc, and when finally it took the decision, it was sudden and none of the above mentioned considerations mattered any longer. Political expediency appeared to be the only consideration. The UPA Government was fast losing credibility. The writing on the wall was there for everyone to see. On the other hand, the BJP’s fortunes were on the upswing. With general elections due in the summer of 2014, the Congress realised it could not dilly dally any longer. It was also prompted by the fear that if the BJP came to power, it would anyway grant statehood in line with its policy. That the Congress party’s decision lacked grace was borne out by the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections. Seemandhra seethed with anger at the splitting of the first linguistic state of the country. For their part, Telangana people knew there was no other way for the Congress but to grant statehood. They were not obliged to regard it as a favour or even as Sonia Gandhi’s gift to them, as the party would have them believe.
Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao and his TRS waged a sustained mass struggle for 12 long years winning the confidence of the people and shaping the party as the true champion of their aspirations. A shrewd politician, Rao knows when to roar and when to lie low. He put these skills to maximum benefit. In contrast, Congress leaders were content with repeated assurances that madam was on the job, with issuing statements, organising meetings and making noises without annoying the high command. The MLAs’ resignations was a drama that was allowed to drag on indefinitely. The 2014 Assembly election verdict gave the KCR’s party 63 out of 119 seats, thus giving credit to him for getting statehood for the backward region. The Congress won only 21 seats in the region despite championing the cause of Telangana while the Telugu Desam, whose support for Telangana was ambivalent, managed 15 seats.
Capt. N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, who has just taken over the reins of Telangana Pradesh Congress committee, and his colleagues in the party and the legislature, have a number of public issues to confront the TRS Government with. In fact, space for a good opposition is waiting to be filled. The Congress leaders would do well to seize the opportunity rather than harp on dynastic loyalties or party’s contribution to formation of the new state. It is settled and done. Uttam Kumar Reddy, an ex-fighter pilot, has assured that the Congress will take on the TRS Government more aggressively on the floor of the Assembly and outside. Let us hope he will walk the talk.