Telangana political football: Why Jagan, Cong, Naidu are all guilty

Success, they say, has many fathers. An unforgivable screw-up resulting in an offspring whose paternity is in doubt will lead to finger-pointing all around.

This sums up the all-party political dilemma over the creation of Telangana, announced by the Congress with various ifs and buts on 9 December 2009.

N Chandrababu Naidu during his fast in New Delhi. PTI

N Chandrababu Naidu during his fast in New Delhi. PTI

With two regional parties now rejecting paternity – N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress – and both going on a fast to prove their on-off fidelity to the idea of a united Andhra Pradesh, Congress trouble-maker Digvijaya Singh has been offering his own version of a DNA test to resolve the issue. Two letters released by him indicate that Naidu clearly flirted with idea of Telangana but Reddy had plausible deniability.

The letters show that Chandrababu Naidu, in a missive dated as far back as 18 October 2008, had this to say: “The politburo of TDP has discussed thoroughly on the conclusions arrived at by the core committee and agreed with its recommendations in favour of (the) formation of a separate Telangana state." Apparently, he reconfirmed this position in another letter of December 2012 to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. There is thus little wriggle room for him now.

As for Jagan Reddy, he appears to have worded his pro-Telangana stance a bit more smartly. He wrote: “Our party addressed this issue at the first plenary of held on 8-9th July 2011. As per the decision taken in that meeting, we reiterate that our party respects the sentiments of the people of Telangana."

Now, “respecting” the “sentiments of the people of Telangana” can be interpreted either way. He can claim he empathised with the concerns of the people of Telangana, but redress can be done within a united Andhra Pradesh.

However, matters are not so simple – and the timing of the letters indicates why the parties may have taken the stand they did.

Chandrababu Naidu’s first letter of 2008 was written when he was hoping to make some gains in the state assembly and Lok Sabha elections six months later. He clearly did not want to write off Telangana since YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR, Jagan’s father who died in a copter crash soon after the elections in 2009) was stronger in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh.

In 2004, the Congress led by YSR came to power promising Telangana, but once in power, it just buried the issue.

In 2009, when the issue surfaced again, the wily YSR did a schizophrenic act: he first promised to back the idea of Telangana and then backtracked. He could do this because the assembly elections in Telangana were held in the first phase, but by the time the rest of the state went to the polls he became a bitter opponent of Telangana. He won big outside Telangana and rode back to power.

Aiding him was a split in the anti-Congress vote, with film star Chiranjeevi biting off a good chunk.

So, even though Jagan Reddy may claim he had nothing to do with the idea of a separate Telangana, the truth is his father stoked the fires and then went back on his words in 2009 – a political trick that all parties have now learned to play.

The BJP has more or less stood by the idea of Telangana, but the Congress went back and forth – on 9 December 2009, when Jagan Reddy was about to exit the Congress, P Chidambaram said that the process for creating the state would be started. Two weeks later, he backtracked and said due to the “altered situation” he would hold wide-ranging talks with all parties on the subject.

It is only now that the Congress appears to have finally decided to take the plunge – which forced both Jagan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu to tap into the fears outside Telangana for political gains.

But don’t be too sure. On past track record, the only thing clear is that politicians will play football with Telangana as long as they can. The Congress promised Telangana in 2004, did not deliver, it again promised the same in 2009, but did not deliver. Now it has promised Telangana again.

Digvijaya Singh showing up Naidu and Jagan Reddy is hypocritical, because the original T-promise was made by the Congress under YSR, not once but twice. The 10-year hiatus between promise and possible delivery is a Congress failure.

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