Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has led to a decline in the political clout of Telugu people

As feared by many, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has significantly reduced the political clout of Telugu people, giving way to TMC. The opponents of bifurcation of the state have primarily voiced such concerns during the debate over division of the state. Though it is erroneous to judge the legitimacy of the demand for the separate state of Telangana on this count alone, the fact is that the worst fears of protagonists of united Andhra Pradesh have come true. The West Bengal chief minister, with her 34 members in Lok Sabha, is the cynosure of Opposition activity, with both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh chief ministers playing supporting roles.

Even the Congress MPs belonging to Seemandhra region opposing the bifurcation accused the then home minister P Chidambaram, who hails from Tamil Nadu, as hatching out a conspiracy to weaken Telugu influence on national politics.

N Chandrababu Naidu (left) and K Chandrasekhara Rao. Agencies

N Chandrababu Naidu (left) and K Chandrasekhara Rao. Agencies

The united Andhra Pradesh had 42 seats in Lok Sabha, equal to that of West Bengal. Now, after the bifurcation of the state, the residuary Andhra Pradesh has 25 members in Lok Sabha while the remaining 17 are left with Telangana. Now, the strength of MPs from Andhra Pradesh are less than that from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, West Bengal, and equal to that from Rajasthan. Telangana is much smaller state in terms of its representation in Lok Sabha. On the contrary, only UP, Bihar and Maharashtra had more Lok Sabha seats than united Andhra Pradesh.

In an age of fractured verdicts and fragmented polity, the representation in Lok Sabha is critical for exercising political clout at the Centre.

Besides, there is a complaint of north-south divide in the national corridors of political power. The economic potential of two residuary states was also compromised by the bifurcation, making them more dependent on the Centre. This is the backdrop against which the demand for special status is voiced.

Division of the state resulted in fractured verdict, mainly on the state lines. The contention in the united state was that the Seemandhra region, which now constitutes the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, enjoyed disproportionate political power as compared to Telangana region. Most of the chief ministers in the united state were from Seemandhra region. The political dominance has created a sense of alienation among people of Telangana, who complained of cultural subjugation under the united Andhra Pradesh regime.

Thus, this idiom of movement for separate statehood completely altered the political map of two successor states. The political parties like TDP and YSR Congress more or less became irrelevant in the new state of Telangana as the leadership of these two regional parties is from Seemandhra region. The sub-regional sentiment unveiled by the new state has led to the emergence of strong regional parties like TRS in Telangana, which was automatically the choice of the people.

Thus, the state is not only geographically divided, but also politically. This political division is all set to remain for a longer period as national parties became redundant in Andhra Pradesh and the BJP remained a low-key force in Telangana.

Andhra Pradesh, with over 30 seats, was instrumental in catapulting UPA to power in 2004 and 2009. As it suffered huge anti-incumbency, the Congress leadership attempted a costly political gamble to at least retain some of the seats in the Telugu state. But their calculations went wrong. Congress was completely rejected in residuary Andhra Pradesh, with the party failing to win any seat in the Lok Sabha due to the people's disenchantment with what they believed to be an arbitrary bifurcation. Quite surprisingly, the people in Telangana also chose to give mandate to the party that fought for the separate state rather than the party which delivered it. In fact, the people of Telangana punished Congress for its politics of procrastination and prevarication in the course  of the struggle for separate statehood.

The regional party TDP emerged on the horizons as a party that opposed the Centre's high-handedness and Congress authoritarianism. Thus, the TDP, which came to power in early 1980s, became the fulcrum of anti-Congress Opposition forces. The state under the TDP leadership held Opposition conclaves to galvanise the anti-Congress political sentiment in the state at a time when there was no serious national contender for the grand old party.

In fact, Telugu politicians like NT Rama Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu were the chairman of the national front and the convener of the united front respectively. The Andhra Pradesh MPs belonging to TDP were the vital support for the survival of Vajpayee-led first NDA regime. The TDP in its early phase was even the main Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

Meanwhile, the BJP's emergence as a strong force and the saffron party coming to power on its own changed the political arithmetic much against Telugu politics. BJP is not dependent on its allies so much that the Telugu regional parties can influence the national political scene.

Meanwhile, the competitive politics of TRS and TDP to grab space in national politics, the YSR Congress introvert politics that does not see BJP as an adversary, the interstate issues that remain unresolved, the animosity left behind by bifurcation, make it difficult for Telugu politicians to unitedly voice their identity in the national polity despite geographical division.

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Updated Date: Mar 29, 2018 08:17:36 IST

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