Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy works Monday to Saturday. And Sunday is time spent with family and friends. Today, however, promises to be different. For closing of accounts day carries the risk of closing his chief ministerial account as well. That is if things go drastically wrong during the Hyderabad march called by votaries of Telangana, later this afternoon.
His police force is painting a grim picture. Intelligence reports claim properties of businessmen from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema could be targeted. All over Hyderabad, the safety metal nets have made a reappearance over commercial establishments and shopping malls, conveying the impression of a scared city. The concern is understandable after what happened during the last such march in March 2011. Telangana activists had then taken over Tank Bund, abutting the Hussainsagar lake in the city, and vandalised statues of non-Telangana heroes. Their angst was that statues of few Telangana heroes were showcased. Those disfigured and broken statues that still stand on Tank Bund are a reminder of the hatred that exposed the fault lines between Telugu-speaking people of different regions.
For long Kiran baiters have been filling the ears of the Congress High command against him. They are smelling blood now for they realise that a Sunday gone wrong could be the perfect opportunity to declare the cricketer-turned-politician out, leg before wicket. What helps this political sideshow is that a powerful Union minister is also gunning for the CM. Governor ESL Narasimhan too does not have too many nice things to say about the CM. But then Kiran could continue at the crease since there is really no alternate leader in the party. Unless the Congress plays the Telangana card and brings in Jaipal Reddy.
Kiran’s best bet then is to ensure 30 September passes off peacefully. Particularly when the world will be watching. 8,000 delegates from 193 countries will be in the city ahead of the prestigious Biodiversity conference, starting Monday. The roads leading to Hyderabad are heavily barricaded and potential troublemakers taken into preventive custody. Prohibitory orders have been imposed even at the State Secretariat. The weekend will see a huge deployment of security forces, given that Saturday is also when 30,000 Ganesh idols will be immersed in Hussainsagar lake.
The march on 30 September, which is supported by some 60 employees organisations, students and cadre of pro-Telangana political parties, comes in the backdrop of the negotiations failing between K Chandrasekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Congress interlocuters, Vayalar Ravi and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Both Ravi and Azad have indicated in so many words that Telangana is not happening any time soon, given the Pandora’s box it is likely to open in the two other regions, and possibly even in other parts of the country. At a time when the Congress is firefighting for the survival of its government in Delhi, opening up a new front is the last thing it would like to do. So the PV Narasimha Rao policy of `no action is the best action’ is being pursued.
But you need to travel from Delhi to Hyderabad to smell the coffee. Drive to Osmania University that has been ground zero of the Telangana struggle over the last two years to witness a very different mood. Even as students pelt stones at the police, who are preventing them from marching out of the University towards the state assembly, Yuvraj, a post-graduate student says the struggle is more about dignity of the people of Telangana.
“For instance when we speak in the Telangana dialect, we are laughed at, as if it is something to be ashamed of. Andhra Telugu is seen as more upmarket,” said Yuvraj, even as his friends nodded in agreement.
Elsewhere the slogans are about the stepmotherly treatment to Telangana in development projects and lack of employment opportunities for Telangana youth in present-day Andhra Pradesh, something that these students strongly believe a separate state will guarantee. It is almost as if `Telangana stoned’ is a metaphor for that frustration. The feeling that what is theirs has been snatched away by the people from Seemandhra is so strong that you are seen as being in `enemy’ camp if you try to argue against the futility of agitating when they should ideally be in their classrooms.
While the Telangana Joint Action Committee aims to use the day to visibly demonstrate the will of the people of the region, the Maoists through a letter sent out in the name of the official spokesperson of their North Telangana Special Zone Committee have expressed their support to the agitation. Maoists have always been pro-Telangana but the timing of the statement, if authentic, could not have come at a worse time. Just the other day, Union Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde expressed fears about a Maoist resurgence in a new Telangana state. Now this will be used to justify a decision against bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
And if the Congress needed any proof of the political unrest that may follow in the other two regions if Telangana was granted, the Telugu Desam showed them the trailer. On Wednesday evening, party chief Chandrababu Naidu wrote an ambiguous letter to the Prime Minister neither supporting Telangana, nor opposing it, and only asked the PM to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue. He needed to do this ahead of his padyatra starting 2 October, to demonstrate to the people of Telangana that he is not against a separate state. But his party men from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have already raised the banner of revolt and senior leaders admit at least half a dozen MLAs may leave the party.
Votaries of Telangana say the writing is on the wall. They are convinced that the Congress is unlikely to arrive at a favorable decision and a sustained agitation is the only way out. This suits the BJP well as it has announced it will show the green flag to Telangana within 100 days of coming to power in Delhi. It will look to get stronger at the expense of the TRS that for the last decade, was seen as the sole spokesperson of the Telangana demand.
But agitations that cripple Hyderabad and the region will only be akin to scoring self-goals. Already Brand Hyderabad in the last few years is a battered hoarding held together by band aid. With the Congress doctors showing no skill in dealing with the patient called Andhra Pradesh, the possibility of self-medication doing more damage is very real.