There is an elephant in the room. And that elephant is the Congress decision on the extremely contentious issue of Telangana. Different `blindfolded’ men and women touch different parts of the elephant’s body and conclude a particular decision will be taken.
Among them is Telangana Rashtra Samiti supremo K Chandrasekhara Rao who clearly loves the idea of a fixed date. Ever since he began the separatist movement a decade ago, he has announced several dates by when Telangana state will be a reality. This time, he has been boasting that he has been getting feelers from Delhi that a positive announcement on Telangana is due by the third week of this month. To be specific: 20 August. But as the country celebrates Eid, there isn’t even a whisper from Indraprastha.
Publicly, TRS leaders strike an optimistic note. They cite Union minister Vayalar Ravi’s statement a couple of weeks ago in which he said that it was time they put the party’s house in Andhra Pradesh in order, starting with the Telangana issue. They talk of how earlier this year, when leaders from the region met the Prime Minister when the non-cooperation movement by the government employees (Sakala Janula Samme) had crippled the state, Dr Manmohan Singh told KCR that no decision can be taken in a pressure cooker atmosphere.
The TRS explains the lull in the agitation, as a chance to the Congress to take a favourable decision. They talk of how they were promised things would move fast after the Vice Presidential election. And the more optimistic tell you that a decision in principle has already been taken, and that the formalities like a cabinet resolution and Bill in Parliament will happen in due course.
Unfortunately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the Congress seems to be in no mood to serve Telangana on a platter. At least, not yet. Congress MP from Nizamabad, Madhu Yaskhi Goud, one of the very vociferous supporters of the Telangana cause in the ruling party, rubbishes the TRS claim as an ‘absolute lie’, and said KCR is only giving false hopes to the people of the region. Goud is certain the Prime Minister is not in favour of bifurcating Andhra Pradesh.
“Have you ever heard of a government taking a difficult decision in a peaceful situation, when there is no pressure on it,” he argued.
The advisors to the Congress are making a comparison between Anna Hazare‘s agitation and the Telangana movement. The argument is that a year ago, the Congress was tottering, with popular mass support to Anna creating a wave of discontent against the government. Today the Anna movement is tottering, with the same middle class support showing signs of disenchantment. “Many problems are solved by just keeping quiet,” is the advice, echoing the P V Narasimha Rao school of thought.
Those opposed to Telangana also argue that the movement is losing steam and that the TRS is gradually losing ground. The Telangana Joint Action Committee, BJP and CPI are other players who too are looking for a piece of the Telangana pie. And the last few months have seen a fierce tussle for snatching the title of the region’s sole representative from early bird TRS.
BJP’s victory in Mahbubnagar assembly constituency earlier this year, pushing TRS to second place created enough bad blood between the two. It spilled over into the Parkal bypoll, where the TRS won. Now when the Telangana JAC decided to lay siege to Hyderabad on 30 September, it was rebuffed by KCR who refused to join hands with it. TRS leaders explain its decision to stay away from agitation mode as a “mature approach”.
“If someone is talking to us from Delhi, we have to hold ourselves. Delhi will not talk to just about everyone on Telangana, they know KCR is the right man to speak to,” says a senior leader, who requested not to be quoted.
With nothing much happening on the Delhi-Hyderabad route and the government busy firefighting the ‘coal-gate’ scam, the issue of Assam violence along with the monsoon session of Parliament, there is little likelihood of anything happening immediately. At least, not before the monsoon session ends in September.Therefore, the TRS is talking of kickstarting the agitation once again. It will enable the TRS to reassert its leadership role in the region and prevent the movement from slipping into others’ hands, thereby rendering irrelevant any plans for an agitation in September.
But the others have got into the act too. BJP state president Kishen Reddy plans to sit on a three-day fast in Delhi from 3 September demanding a Bill on statehood for Telangana in Parliament. The CPI is planning a Telangana yatra from 25 August.
But public pronouncements notwithstanding, none of the political players are looking for an immediate resolution to the Telangana issue. Each one of them wants to keep the pot boiling till 2014 and only stoke the fire at regular intervals. In the run-up to the elections, one is likely to see the movement re-ignited at regular intervals, and every party will hope it translates into handsome electoral gains. The plan is to then use that political muscle to get Telangana.