It has reached such tragic proportions that Special Status has become a mirage on the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh even as the players are changing their ‘stance’ with each passing day.
The ‘people-concerned’ leaders are donning different garbs in the pavilion but the match-frenzy and excitement is in keeping the gullible public as awestruck spectators, who are unsure which way the fortunes of the match would turn.
It all began with the then ruling and all-powerful Congress Working Committee (CWC) deciding to concede the ‘overwhelming’ demand of the people of Telangana for a separate State. The faint-hearted parties played a hideous role thereby rousing sentiments on both sides.
The then opposition in an uptight bid to corner the party in power for reaping political mileage took the most opportunistic stand, as it is their wont. The nation and the State units of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took divergent stands for many years before eventually backing the demand for Telangana statehood.
The Seemandhra BJP leadership did make a feeble effort to champion the cause of the Seemandhra people by talking about injustice to the region.
As the process of bifurcation neared, the BJP took a strident position in parliament suddenly assuming the role of Seemandhra saviour-incarnate. Venkaiah Naidu personally led this Seemandhra crusade with active support from a brilliant lawyer and the then opposition leader in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley.
The opposition BJP was, therefore, instrumental in bringing the Special Status to Andhra Pradesh onto the political agenda. The party tried to balance its unconditional support for the bifurcation of the State with the promise of achieving Special Status to the residuary State of Andhra Pradesh.
The BJP could thus work out consummate political calculations and performed its double action very effectively. The Telugu Desam was the party that officially favoured bifurcation of the State nearly five years before the Congress took a call.
On the eve of the 2009 elections, the TDP made a volte-face and abandoned its patent over Telugu pride to support the division of the Telugu people into two States. Not confining to mere support to the Telangana cause, the party and its chief assailed the Congress for its prevarication on its stand.
Doubly confident that the Centre would not yield to the division demand, the TDP vehemently sought bifurcation. This equivocation caused the party much embarrassment leading to its worst ever defeat in the pre-bifurcation period. But, the TDP leadership with its unparalleled political managerial skills turned the disadvantage into an advantage and a threat into an opportunity.
With swift political action, the TDP transformed itself and projected itself as the messiah of the Seemandhra populace. The YSR Congress Party, though the first party to tilt towards Seemandhra, however, failed to enact any noteworthy political drama before the Seemandhra electorate and paid a heavy price.
With its timely decision to join hands with BJP, which was seen as a potential power centre in New Delhi, the TDP’s promises to the beleaguered people of Andhra Pradesh carried more credibility.
Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s image as an able administrator, the TDP’s alliance with BJP, Modi’s personal chemistry with the people etc, culminated in a positive vote for the TDP-BJP combine. Against this political backdrop, the demands for Special Status acted as a lubricant for the ascent of the TDP-BJP combine.
The then ruling Congress was compelled to promise Special Status to Andhra Pradesh by way of Prime Minister’s assurance in Parliament. The Congress, perceived as a villain by the Seemandhra electorate, obviously failed to regain the confidence of the people, though it authored the Special Status promise.
But, the opposition BJP and its ally TDP could reap rich political dividends from this promise of Special Status on which the very process of bifurcation was predicated upon.
The YSR Congress that lacked any political strategy almost remained aloof from the agitprop surrounding the Special Status.
The entire political system of Andhra Pradesh is culpable for the non-inclusion of Special Status in the State Reorganisation Act, despite such suggestions being orchestrated by the civil society. Though every political party is responsible for this, the BJP-TDP is now portraying the Congress for it as it authored the bifurcation act in the first place.
The Congress leadership, despite its weak attempts to appropriate the Special Status promise, is yet to effectively counter the rivals’ tirade. And the blame-game goes on much to the chagrin of the masses.
Of late, the Congress seems to have realised its failures. The Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee, which is desperately looking for an issue that can revive its fortunes, has found a godsend opportunity in keeping alive the elusive Special Status issue. But, the wounds of bifurcation normally accompany the hopes of Special Status.
The Congress party opponents are quick to rake up past wounds to deny any advantage for the Congress over the Special Status. However, the BJP-led NDA’s refusal to budge an inch has further emboldened the Congress. Even the party high command, including the former Prime Minister, is backing the State Congress struggle for Special Status.
However, given the dire straits it is in the State, the Congress lacks the striking power to make any reasonable impact.
The Left as usual is a late entrant in this sentimental politics.
The Power Star still remains powerless in this regard, confining himself to tweets, that too occasionally, as a means to feed the media with something spicy on dry days. The clueless Janasenani, yet to define his political space, may render nothing substantial.
The YSR Congress suffers from political myopia as far as its struggle for Special Status is concerned. Its undesirable obsession with Chandrababu Naidu makes the struggle devoid of its substance.
Whether it is loan waiver, or drought or Special Status, the YSR Congress and its leader fail to see anything except arch-rival Chandrababu Naidu. His shilly-shallying towards the BJP is the prime reason for its lacklustre fight over Special Status.
For Jaganmohan Reddy, more than Modi’s intransigence on the issue, Naidu’s inability to demand his pound of flesh seems to be deceitful. This selective vision punctuated by political ambiguity removes the gloss over YSR Congress struggle for Special Status.
Caught in a bland situation, the TDP wants to strike but not wound the BJP. Barring occasional voices of dissent and verbose, the TDP and the BJP are engaged in only a virtual battle that failed to ground.
Even as the Union government remains steadfast that the State will not in any way get Special Status, the state BJP leaders continue to live in a fool’s paradise and want the people of Andhra Pradesh to believe this shabby politics.
The TDP is in a Catch-22 situation. Hope and despair, confusion and clarity, coexist in the TDP camp. As such, the party is still unable to decide between BJP and Special Status for Andhra Pradesh.
Almost every political party is responsible for what they call arbitrary manner in which the State was bifurcated and opportunistic manner in which the Special Status provision was not incorporated into the Reorganisation Act itself, and the cruel way in which the Special Status is being denied now.
Tags: AP Special Status