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Telangana - Some thoughts..

Dear Visitors - this blog has been in coma since January 2010, and now I have revived it to post my thoughts on the Telangana resolution by UPA yesterday. I will try to keep posting here from now on till the 2014 elections. (Lets see how well I keep my promise ! ).

Ok. So, the UPA Co-ordination Committee has passed the resolution to form Telangana as the 29th state of the Republic of India. It must be noted that this is just the beginning of the process, and there are a few more steps to be completed.

Hearty congratulations to all those who have agitated for a separate state of Telangana ! There have been the inevitable incidents of violence and several unsavoury remarks made by some of the T-activists, but by and large it has been a democratic and peaceful movement. The leaders and activists all deserve kudos for this achievement. More importantly, it is good that a people's movement has ended in success.

So, what are the next steps?

1. The Union Home ministry has to draft the Telangana bill (T-bill). Normally, this takes a few weeks, but I assume a lot of groundwork may have been completed already.

2. The bill has to be reviewed and finalised by the Group of Ministers (GoM). Again, this can take a lot of time, but with Congress keen on expediting the process, one assumes that by end of August, this step could be completed.

3. The T-bill is sent to the AP Legislature for review. There is high likelihood of the bill review being delayed here due to opposition from Seemandhra MLAs. At best, there is a 50% chance of this bill being passed by the AP Legislature. If the bill is rejected by the AP Legislature, it will create a PR issue for UPA from a 'federal spirit' perspective. I think the UPA is aware of this, and prepared to ignore the state Assembly's rejection. ( We'll come to the political ramifications later.)

4. The bill has to be introduced in Parliament and will require a simple majority to be passed, unless there is a constitutional amendment to go with it (in which case I believe a 2/3rds majority of those present and voting is required - in both the Houses). It is at this step that the bill could run into danger. We can expect many political parties to demand a constitutional amendment to remove Article 371 D ( for two reasons: (a) Every vote will count in case of an amendment and smaller parties can extract their dues from the Congress (b) BJP is likely to push for an amendment so that BJP can blame UPA's failure in getting the bill passed. We can expect Seemandhra MPs to lobby for defeating the bill at this stage and Congress may have to issue a whip.

What is the likelihood of the T-bill being passed during the monsoon session of the Parliament?

If UPA can get both the Food Security and Telangana bills passed in the coming session, it will count as a significant accomplishment for them ahead of the general elections. One can expect fierce debates on both the bills, and especially the MPs from regions where there are demands for new states will have to tread carefully. At this point, I would give UPA a 50% chance of getting the T-bill passed during the monsoon session, but it will come at a great political cost (not to speak of the money needed to 'convince' some MPs).

Congress game-plan - is simple. In Telangana, if they can get the bill passed, TRS is expected to merge with Congress, and between them, they hope to get around 14 LS seats. In Seemandhra, Congressmen have already started agitating for a Unified AP, and with MPs like Rajagopal and CM Kiran playing to the unified AP gallery, they hope to minimize the damage. Congress is fine with Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress winning 12-15 LS seats in Seemandhra. Grapevine in Hyderabad is that Jagan is likely to be released (at least on bail) in September, and Congress will welcome a merger of YSR CP with the parent Congress. So, in spite of all the bad PR overall, Congress can still walk-away with 28-30 MPs out of 42 in Andhra Pradesh.

BJP - does not seem to have a game-plan except hoping that T-people will reward them for the support to separate state and NaMo effect will win them votes in urban areas of Seemandhra. The BJP's best bet would be to prevent the merger of TRS with Congress. They can do this only if they ensure the T-bill does not get passed in the Parliament. The added benefit would be that BJP can get the bill passed 'if' NDA comes to power in the 2014 general election, and have the TRS merge with them instead. And by stalling the bill in Parliament, they will endear themselves to sections among the Seemandhra voters as well. Especially, the NaMo fans (large numbers among the youth and women across AP) who like NaMo's development mantra but don't want to vote for the BJP due to its pro-Telangana stance. NaMo can also come up with a workable plan for the separation between the two states and give the Seemandhra people a grand vision about a lovely new capital city (you deserve a world class city as your capital ! Come let us build it !) built in record time and bullet trains from Vijayawada to New Delhi etc. But the BJP lacks a pan-AP leader. They need to find a young leader from the BCs and a few leaders from the SCs and Minorities. Most of this is unlikely to happen because the calibre of strategic thinking is low within the BJP when it comes to the Southern states.

TDP - Unlike most observers who feel that the TDP is the real loser in the whole T-saga, I think they are better placed than they seem to realize. TDP has won as many Panchayats as the Congress ( actually a few more than the Congress) in the recent local body polls - which shows their cadre is almost in tact. If they can find a few loopholes in the T-bill (which they will), Babu will go shrill, denouncing the Congress' deceit of T-people. TDP will settle for 2-3 seats at best from Telangana and hope to win 10 from Seemandhra. For this to happen, TDP has to revive the 'self-respect of Telugus' and add the 'peaceful resolution to the property sharing disputes between the two states without any national party's mediation' theme. KCR (TRS) will like this idea too, as that will give TRS more wiggle room in any negotiation. Both Telangana and Seemandhra people will prefer Congress and BJP to stay out of the property division matters among 'siblings'. YSR Congress will like this idea as well. So, if the TDP succeeds in creating this 'anti- national party' feeling among the people, it will benefit a lot at the hustings. The second thing they need to do is (after the mud slinging on INC) to take a message to the voters that any vote to TRS or YSR CP is a vote to the Congress, as they are likely to merge with Congress or join the UPA coalition. Again, for Babu to succeed in this plan, he needs to find a way to get the bill rejected in Parliament, without T-people blaming the TDP. Babu needs to remember that the BCs and a section of SCs (Madigas) are still largely with TDP and therefore, the CM post for Telangana ( should TDP win there by a miracle) should go to a BC person or a Dalit leader.

YSR Congress - Jagan could well become the Mulayam/Mayawati of AP in that he may end up winning many Assembly seats and 10+ LS seats, but Congress can play around with him by dangling the CBI sword. Jagan would want to get out of jail first though. If he indeed gets out on bail in September ( as is being rumoured), it will be a huge boost to his party cadre, and to the women of his house (mother, sister and wife). The ladies have held fort admirably, and especially Sharmila has done a lot of hard work as the 'replacement for Jagan' (on Sunday, she crossed 3000 km in her walkathon) in the 'Odaarpu Yaatra' (Journey to console the bereaved). Some cynics may laugh at the spectacle of YSR's daughter walking the countryside to console voters for the demise of the late 'great leader'. But she (and Jagan earlier) have been meeting people, real people, and reassuring them that good days will be back again. Irrespective of the loot and alleged illegal activities, the poor and under privilged feel good about any leader talking to them personally and will not go against a vote pledged directly to a leader. All this hard work would benefit YSR Congress in some way. If Jagan is short-sighted and at the end of his tether, he may buy a deal with Congress in return for his 'temporary' freedom. But if he can tough it out, and project a complete pro-Seemandhra stance ( his MLAs have already resigned in protest), he will win enough LS seats to strike a better deal with NaMo or even UPA after the polls. Jagan needs to understand that Congress is the common enemy for him and Babu. And that he will be on a safer ground in a bi-polar contest against the TDP in future elections. It is in the best longer term interests of both YSR CP and TDP to eliminate Congress from the state political scenario or reduce Congress to the level it has in Tamil Nadu for example. The temptation of merging with Congress after the polls and becoming a CM of Seemandhra with Rahul baba as PM - will be dangled in front of Jagan and the women of the house. But they need to stay strong and not give in. Jagan should remember that Congress can only offer him a CM post under the pleasure of Rahul baba, and it will be a life long servitude for him. He is better off providing issue-based support to NaMo at the centre and be the CM of Seemandhra under the pleasure of the voters of AP.

The question - do Babu and Jagan realize that Congress is their mutual enemy ? People close to these leaders should keep egos and caste prejudices aside, and work out an understanding whereby they send a common message to the voters: Vote for a regional party. Get rid of national parties. As BJP is anyway a non-entity in Seemandhra, this message will effectively become a 'Don't vote for Congress at any cost' mantra.

MIM - is actually fine with Telangana but would have preferred Rayala Telangana. They were dead against making Hyderabad a Union Territory (which is what majority of Hyderabadis want actually !) because they would then wither away as a political party with no MLAs. The MIM will try to veto any proposal to make Hyd a UT, and this could provide the BJP, CPM, TDP, YSR CP etc, with a getaway clause. These parties may demand UT status for Hyd in order for them to support the other clauses in the T-bill. MIM will disagree and Congress is fearful of overruling MIM because the Owaisi brothers can make it an anti-Muslim issue, damaging Congress' secular prospects in rest of the country.

TRS - should not trust any one till the bill is passed in Parliament. And after the bill is passed, if they don't wish to continue as a separate party, they should merge with BJP instead of Congress. KCR and other TRS leaders will never have a chance in Congress, and BJP offers them more chances of growth. However, in the interests of Telangana, I hope TRS decides to remain as a separate entity and become a regional party competing with TDP for power in Telangana state.

KCR made an excellent speech last night after the T news broke on all channels. His reaching out to the Seemandhra brethren in a reconciliatory tone, and his repeated assurances that all those living in Telangana will be treated as natives etc, impressed even a die-hard anti-KCR person like me. Yes, I no longer detest KCR's language and manners. I think he deserves to become the first CM of Telangana.

Both Telangana and Seemandhra have a great future and can help each other. Telugus have shown the way to the nation in giving the concept of linguistic organization of states. Now, the first linguistic state in India is being divided, and Telugus can once again show how it can be done peacefully and with mutual benefit.


Anonymous said…
Waiting for your next article, specially on the unexpected seemandhra agitation (if one could say unexpected in the scale at least).