Thursday, February 13, 2014

Telengana Issue stokes violence in the Indian Parliament

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Indian Parliament was rocked by unprecedented violence today over the vexed question of the division of the state of Andhra Pradesh by carving out the state of Telengana from the existing state of Andhra Pradesh. The Indian Constitution defines India as a Union of States and it is perhaps not quite legal for the Congress Party to separate Telengana from Andhra Pradesh when the state assembly rejected the resolution authorising the division. The Congress regime for reasons of gaining some electoral advantage decided to table the bill for the separation of Telengana from Andhra Pradesh in the Indian parliament. The Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, has stated that there was no discussion with the Prime Minister over the introduction of the bill. Without a concensus the Congress decided to table the bill and pandemonium broke out.

The historical background of the demand for separate Telengana goes back to the heady days after Independence when Nehru decided to constitute the States Reorganization Commission in order the created linguistic states as the basic bulding blocks of the federal polity of India. In hind sight it is clear that the linguistic division of states that valorized language as the major marker of identity was a huge mistake as it has led to identity politics on a scale that is both complex and self destructive. Andhra Pradesh as irony would have it took the lead as it was the 90 day fast unto death by Potti Sriramalu which hastened the process of the creation of lingusitic states. The Telengana region which essentially consisted of the Nizam's dominions wanted to maintain its unique identity even as early as the 1950s and the region;s leaders made impassioned pleas for the preservation of what they though were the unique features of Telengana regional identity and pride. Nehru, the doddering and dithering man that he was gave the assurance that Telengan could opt out of the union with Andhra if it so desired. Just as this man made a mess in Kashmir, he was really responsible for this controversy too. Successive Congress regimes have won elections by pandering to regional aspirations and after the victory precious little was done. In the 2009 General Elections, the state of Andhra Pradesh was responsible for the return of the UPA as 33 Congress MPs were returned to the Lok sabha. Many of us feel that Andhra by voting the Congress is now paying a heavy price for its sin.

After promising statehood to the people of Telengana the Union Home mInister, P Chidambaram made an announcement on 9th December 2009 that the "process for the creation of the new state " would be set in motion. This announcement galvanized the people of the other two region of Andhra Prodesh, the Coastal region and Rayalseema. Stiff opposition was mounted in both these regions and the Central Government bought some time by setting up the Sri Krihna Committee to study the whole question whether the new state was viable or not. Sri Krishna recommended that division should  be the last option. The region of Telengana has suffered from economic backwardness and though there are hydro electic plants on the Krishna, the benefit does not accrue to the people of the region. The capital city, Hyderabad which attracted a lot of capital from the coastal region emerged as a modern and vibrant urban area with the Computer/ Soft ware firms, Central Government educational and research institutions  and offices. The money made in coastal Andhra Pradesh was invested in Hyderabad. Kurnool could have been developed as an alternate city/ capital but the emphasis was on Hyderabad.

The rise of a street smart politician, K Chandrasekar Rao and the party that he established faught the 2009 elections on the plank of separate Telengana and he could win only 2 seats out of 17 in the region. The failure to win a respectable number of seats clearly implied the rejection of the separate Telengana, but the Congress for its own cynical reasons decided to forge an alliance with the TRS and announced the intention of creating a separate state. The real issue here was the insecurity of the Congress whose performance was just deplarable. By dividing the state and merging the TRS with the Congress, the leaders of the Congress hoped to gain some safe electoral seats.

This morning when the bill was introduced in Parliament, the MPs from the coastal region and from Rayalseema created an unprecedented pandemonium in the Lok Sabha. One Congress MP Rajagopal even brought a knife into the Parliament and MPs attacked each other with paper weights and pulled out mikes. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha one Meira Kumar was forced to adjourn the house.

Now people are asking the question: Who is responsible for the mess. The Congress Party MPs were the main perpetrators of the violence as they felt that with the creation of a separate state of Telengana their political future would be doomed. Coastal Andhra hjas invested heavily in Telengana and there was pressure put on the central governemnt to protect the investments by making Hyderabad a Union Territory, a plea that was rejected by the TRS. The BJP which supports the creation of Telengana does not want to help the Congress get the credit for the creation of the new state nad hence has distanced itself from the whole issue. The BJP seems to say to the Congress" You created the mess now you clean it up. The violence and disruption caused by the Congress Party  by its thoughtless move to create a new state so as to get a few seats in the next parliament shows the depths to which the dynastic fascists can descend. Only the people of Andhra are suffering.

No comments: