Divided Congress, TRS betray Telengana
By S.R. Ramanujan
It has been a tu tu main main from day one between Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. Leaders of both the parties have been making statements, devoid of decency and decorum, right from the day they started sharing power both at the Centre and in the state, ultimately leading to the exit of six TRS men from the state council of ministers. It has not stopped at this. The Congressmen are demanding that the two Union Ministers, K. Chandrasekhara Rao, Minister for Labour, and A. Narendra, Minister for Rural Development, should also quit the Union Cabinet.
It was an opportunistic alliance that brought the two parties together during the run-up to the Parliamentary and Assembly elections in the state in 2004. Sonia Gandhi who was desperate to go along with any political group in order to defeat the National Democractic Alliance (NDA) had no qualms in aligning with the TRS for the 2004 elections. Neither ideology nor political commitment was the binding factor for the alliance, but rank opportunism was. UPA and CMP are post-poll avatars. The decision to go with the TRS was not to the liking of the local Congress leaders who were totally opposed to separate Telengana. To hide their real intentions, the Congressmen were reciting the mantra of ?Second State Reorganisation Commission? which meant deferring the issue indefinitely. Anyway, Sonia'swill prevailed over everything else because of her broader objective to deal a severe blow to the NDA. So, this poll-eve alliance between the Congress and TRS was an undisguised display of moral and political dishonesty at its worst.
The state Chief Minister Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, subsequent to the formation of the government, has been publicly acknowledging the ideological incompatibility between the two parties. He said: ?Though they (TRS and the Congress) are partners in the first-ever coalition government in the state, the Congress and the TRS do not hold the same perception of the need for statehood for the Telengana region.? The question arises: ?Was he not aware of this ideological contradiction before the polls? When he was aware of this divergence in perceptions, was he or his party not playing fraud on the people of Telengana when they fought the elections together giving the impression to the people that a vote for this alliance is a vote for a separate state??
The people of Telengana have been taken for a ride. The TDP has always been consistent on this one issue and the party is not for bifurcation of the state for its own reasons.
After the Congress stormed back to power in Andhra Pradesh after a gap of nine years bagging 185 seats on its own and a three-fourth majority of 226 seats with electoral allies like the Left parties and the TRS in the 294-member Assembly, the state Congress had the temptation to form a ministry on its own without the TRS. But the Congress High Command had a different game plan. Since the TRS had five MPs, Sonia did not want to alienate the party as every MP counted in the power game. Hence, TRS was forced on the throat of the state Congress leadership. This gave a handle to the Telugu Desam, which is totally opposed to the Telengana state, to taunt the TRS ministers saying: ?They are shamelessly clinging to ministerial berths though the Congress leaders are humiliating them. And their leader is passing time in Delhi hosting dinners.? It is true that the Congress leaders were calling TRS men names. They went to the extent of saying that Union Minister Narendra was ?insane? and that they won'tallow him enter the state. But the two Union Ministers sitting in Delhi were claiming the support of Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh for a separate state that further irritated the state Congress leadership.
There is another interesting reason for the Congress MLAs? ire against the TRS ministers. Six ministerial berths that had gone to the TRS should have come to the Congress in the normal course since there was no need for a coalition government in the state with Congress having a brute majority in the House. Hence, the humiliation of the TRS ministers. To add to the woes of TRS, Maoists started issuing threats that if they do not quit the ministry, they would be targeted. And this threat was real. It was not the Congress pinpricks, but the Naxal threats that ultimately forced the TRS men to quit the state cabinet. Now that the TRS ministers are out, the Congressmen are quite happy and the Chief Minister has already thrown a hint of possible reshuffle, which would mean more Congressmen in the cabinet. If the Congress were to be dependent on the TRS strength for a majority in the Assembly, the story would have been entirely different.
But, what is regrettable is that amidst all these recriminations and hate-hate relationship, the people of Telengana have been taken for a ride. The TDP has always been consistent on this one issue and the party is not for bifurcation of the state for its own reasons. The CPI-M is also opposed to the division of the state. The BJP, despite its Kakinada resolution demanding statehood for Telengana, remained ambiguous. The Congress, making half-hearted response to the demand, has never been honest about its intentions. The TRS is caught on a cleft stick. All those regional party leaders whose support TRS claimed are not to be seen in its company except for Sharad Pawar who made his presence felt in the recently held TRS rally at Warangal.
No one talks about the second SRC these days while that was the instant response to separate Telengana demand. On the contrary, the focus is now on the committee headed by the Defence Minister Pranab Mukerjee. Can this committee go against the wishes of Sonia? Can Sonia risk a rebellion in the state Congress if she makes any positive gesture to the TRS demand? So, the spate of demand and denial will linger till the next Parliamentary elections, whenever it is held, or the local body elections due this year, when the real strength of TRS will emerge, if it enters the fray on its own. If it fails to make an impressive performance, the party will wither away making way for another leader to emerge to take the Telenganaites for a ride once again, after Dr Channa Reddy and KCR.