Telangana MPs of the Congress are ecstatic. As if they have smelt blood. They cannot thank the standoff on the FDI enough for it gave them an opportunity to mount sufficient pressure on the High command and make them yield to their demand for an all-party meeting on Telangana.
In the battle for brownie points, this has been by far the only victory the Congress MPs have secured so far.
On the morning of Tuesday, eight Congress MPs from Telangana showed the spine to boycott a meeting called by Union Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath. ‘No word on Telangana, no vote for FDI’ was their way of saying it is endgame. One of the MPs told me, “We have our back to the wall back home in Telangana. We have to show that we can speak our mind to our leadership in Delhi too,” he said.
The reason for this belligerence was not difficult to seek. The MP was among those who had held long confabulations with K Chandrasekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti the previous evening and had been assured place of pride in the TRS should the Congress frown upon the act of defiance by the MPs and throw them out.
This MP isn’t the only one. About half a dozen Telangana Congress MPs have been talking of quitting the party and going their separate ways if the party leadership did not take any favourable announcement before 9 December. In anticipation of a fresh catch, the TRS had kept placement letters ready for the potential new recruits. The names of Ponnam Prabhakar, Manda Jagannatham and G Vivek were doing the rounds as the ones who may proclaim Telangana Congressman ka haath, KCR ke saath while others like Rajgopal Reddy and Gutta Sukhender Reddy were rumoured to be mulling the Jaganmohan Reddy option.
Much to the Congressmen’s relief, the high command blinked. Or so they think. Because convening an all-party meeting in itself is not cause for cheer unless the Congress leadership decides what its stand on the contentious issue is.
The very fact that Shinde readily agreed to an all-party meeting in the face of this blackmail shows he thinks the meeting can be managed. The Congress’ bigger priority was to ensure the FDI vote went through without any hiccups and the promise to call the meeting ensured that. Knowing how the party works, it is anyone’s guess that once FDI is out of the way, the MPs will face the music for embarrassing the leadership.
What could happen on 28 December? While the details of the proposed meeting have not been announced, to expect it to be a gamechanger would be to expect too much. The Congress or for that matter the Telugu Desam or the YSR Congress are hardly in a position to take a position either way and are unlikely to spell out their stand in black and white. So besides generating some political heat in the Delhi winter, it won’t achieve much.
The option of the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) could be put on the table and the parties that are not enthusiastic about bifurcation will react positively to the idea while the others would protest. No consensus would mean Delhi can blame everyone else for lack of a solution to the issue.
KCR who spent the better part of October in Delhi talking to Congress emissaries too knows these meetings over endless cups of tea won’t achieve Telangana. Which is why he has begun preparing for the electoral battle of 2014 so that impressive numbers would give his voice more impetus in Delhi.
The Congress thinktank has come to terms with the fact that Telangana electorally is a lost cause for the party—just like UP and Bihar—and even if it were to announce a roadmap for statehood, it is highly unlikely to get the credit. Besides, the damage it would suffer in the other two regions would be too high a price to pay for the decision.
The ploy then is to ensure that whoever wins in Andhra Pradesh plays the midwife in Delhi to deliver UPA III. This could be achieved with the help of pre-poll alliances either with TRS or with Jagan’s party, depending on how the Congress plays its cards in 2013.
The Congress leaders from Telangana are following a two-pronged approach to secure their own individual political future. Most of them regularly attack Kiran Kumar Reddy, thereby occupying the opposition space in their constituency. They also keep KCR in good humour, just in case they need his help to ensure another term as an MLA or MP.
The MPs also have been requesting the high command to let them float a Telangana front within the Congress, a suggestion Delhi has not warmed up to yet.
In order to placate its leaders, Delhi has let chief ministerial hopefuls from Telangana nurse their ambitions and in return, asked to tone down their pro-Telangana rhetoric. So far the gambit has worked with the likes of Jana Reddy in silent mode. 2013 will be the year when the Congress will have to make decisive moves on the Andhra Pradesh chessboard and hope it manages to checkmate others.