Where does AP go from here?

Where does AP go from here?

The die appears to have been cast. AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh's maiden visit to Hyderabad after starting his second innings as supervisor...

The die appears to have been cast. AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh's maiden visit to Hyderabad after starting his second innings as supervisor of the Congress party affairs in AP was intended to test the waters and sound the leaders at the State level. Conveying a complex decision on an emotional issue is as difficult as making it; and implementing it is even more hazardous. It is not easy to divide a State which has been in existence for more than 56 years. One formula may lead to resolution of an issue, but it could give rise to another problem. Digvijay Singh reiterated at Bangalore on Tuesday what he said in Hyderabad one day earlier. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, PCC president Botcha Satyanarayana and Deputy Chief Minister Damodar Rajanarasimha are supposed to sit together, prepare a roadmap. We have no idea what the roadmap would be and what is going to be its goal. Digvijay gave a lot of clarity but kept some key aspects vague. The core committee of the Congress party would be meeting next week to consider the recommendations of this informal three-member committee. The AICC general secretary spoke of so many possibilities that every region was given scope to interpret his comments in a favourable way. The behavior of the Congressmen in the State resembled that of rats and squirrels minutes before an earthquake. The euphoria or anxiety was writ large on their faces. Is Digvijay's visit intended to help Congressmen visit Telangana villages during the panchayat election, the schedule of which was announced on Wednesday, as alleged by some Opposition leaders? We have the famous joke of Anjaiah, former chief minister, saying, while in office, that every winner belongs to the ruling party. Since the panchayat polls are not contested on party basis, the individual leaders who are the nominees of MLAs tend to win and they happen to be sympathizers of ruling party, be it the Congress or the TDP. The suggestion that panchayat polls prompted the Congress to go upbeat over the Telangana question can be safely ruled out. Letter writing and PowerPoint presentation are rewarding exercises at times. But they don't work at all times. Reports suggesting that Kiran Kumar Reddy had prepared a secret package of Rs. 82,000 crore to satisfy the people of Telangana appear, on the face of it, far-fetched. Media made a big issue of Kiran returning to Hyderabad without meeting Madam. During the three days that Kiran was in Delhi, Sonia and Manmohan Singh were in Kashmir. It is true that Sonia met D Srinivas, former PCC president, more times than she met any chief minister, including ours. It is not surprising if the chief minister attempted to avert division of the State. He has faith in his ability to impress important persons with his presentation. But it was not possible. His preference to keep the State united is no secret and he is entitled to his views. But he has no political compulsions that Sonia Gandhi has. For her, votes and seats are important. Power is of paramount importance to any political party. Sonia had twin responsibilities. One, she had to see that her party continued in power both in AP and at the Centre uninterrupted by anything. That was perhaps why she did nothing when the government's decision on her birthday (December 9, 2009) had to be put off in the wake of dramatic opposition from leaders of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Had she persisted with the decision insisting on its implementation, the Congress would surely have lost power in AP forcing mid-term polls. The stability of the UPA-II also would have become a question mark. The Congress high command (the other name of Sonia Gandhi) was a witness to suicides by hundreds of students and other youths, flight of capital, lack of development and growing hatred between brothers of both the regions. All these unfortunate developments are not as important for the Congress high command as keeping power. Being in office in AP is critically important for getting into office in Karnataka. Sonia's second compulsion is to make Rahul Gandhi prime minister. For that to happen, the Congress party has to win in a minimum of 200 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 general election. The time, therefore, had come to count the votes and seats. In the calculation of seats, AP, which gave 33 seats in 2009, becomes extremely important. Sonia's priorities now are set. She has to do something, everything and anything, to grab as many seats from this State as possible. Till she reached the bridge she did not think about crossing it. Politics is truly a cruel game. Any person with a (weak) heart is unfit to play. The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister has been working for the party for almost ten years in keeping with his oath of not contesting elections for two terms after losing power in Bhopal after ruling for two terms. The third term in Madhya Pradesh is likely to go for the BJP. But Digvijay may contest this time to become the Home Minister in Rahul Gandhi government. He is experienced, knows the country as he does the back of his hand and is tactful. Nobody is able to say how the talk of Rayala Telangana started. Digvijay told media persons that he had heard it for the first time from reporters. But he asked the TJAC leaders, who met him, about their reaction to the proposal of adding two of the four Rayalaseema districts to Telangana. It may be grapevine or kite-flying. The party high command may be trying to gauge the reaction of the people. A roadmap, if any, is needed for the people of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. The idea of dividing Seema was not amusing either to the people of the four districts or to those of Telangana. But the people or at least the political leaders of Seema were always apprehensive about Coastal Andhra. The theory of big fish and small wish is responsible for all kinds of fears. Telugus in undivided Madras State wanted to have a separate State because their number in Madras Assembly was less than the Tamils. Even a statesman like Rajaji could not give an impression of impartial rule. The majority always has its way. The core issue behind the Telangana movement is that the Telangana members are fewer than members of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra put together. The sense of insecurity leads to all kinds of suspicions and problems. We did not, unfortunately, have statesmen as chief ministers. Every chief minister had contributed to the sense of alienation and none has done anything to promote emotional integration. The reason for Seema leaders being unwilling to supper with the Coastal Andhra leaders has been the same; the number of their members in the Assembly of the future State would be less than that of Coastal Andhra. The insecurity complex is not of recent origin. Even when Andhra State was formed in 1953, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, who went on to become President of the republic, did not allow the Capital to be established in Vijayawada. He was very rigid about Kurnool. Seema leaders always had their eye on Hyderabad. Even after the division of Madras State, the leaders of Nellore and Rayalaseema district opted to stay with Madras University and did not come under the purview of Andhra University. Coastal Andhra intellectuals like Dr Yelamanchili Sivaji feel that Seema leaders have been behaving in strange ways all through. He blamed leaders like BV Subbareddy for letting down the people of Andhra who agitated for a separate State in 1972, during which 350 persons were killed in police firing. Kakani Venkataratnam died of heart attack at the height of the movement. If the decision is for demerger, the Congress high command has to take special pains to prepare a package for the people of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Removing suspicions against each other is the first priority. There has to be a congenial atmosphere, which the Congress high command alone could create, to discuss the important issue. The popular apprehension, in the case of division, is the sharing of waters. That should not be a major concern since there is already a move to have about 12 bodies to decide the share of water for different States and regions. River waters would ultimate be considered a national resource and brought into the Central list. Package, if any, also has to be prepared for the people of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. They will have to build a Capital for themselves. Even if the Centre offers to give financial package for the construction of buildings, it will take many years for them to come up. Chhattisgarh which was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2001 is yet to complete the construction of its new capital city of New Raipur. The secretariat is functioning from the new office but most of the government offices are still in Old Raipur. The outlay for the construction of the Capital in 800 hectares (about 2000 acres) was Rs 18,000 crore. It will take some more years for the work to be completed. Reluctance to concede the demand for statehood for Telangana is due to the stupendous task of dividing a State and building infrastructure for the new State. If the chief ministers of Telangana and Andhra-Seema behave in the same manner as the AP chief minister did, there won't be emotional integration among the people of the two States and a movement for a separate Rayalaseema will not be far behind. Some protagonists of a separate State for Seema are going to sit on 52 hours Deeksha to sensitise the 52 MLAs from their region. They also have plans to extend the programme by eight hours to bring pressure on their MPs whose number is 8. They claim that Seema can have 10 districts and it will be the second largest State in the country. They dismiss the argument that a separate State comprising the four districts of Rayalaseema would not be viable. Digvijay's comments on and off the record have driven leaders in all regions to action mode. Efforts are afoot to mount movements for united AP, on one side, and a Rayalaseema State, on the other. The one in Telangana would be intensified to ensure that the UPA-II would not go back again on its promise. Digvijay has stirred up a hornet's nest. The next 10 days, during which the core committee of the Congress and the UPA Cabinet are slated to meet, are going to be crucial for the future of the Telugus. Whatever may be the decision, it has to be transparent and should involve the people of the concerned region. Otherwise, distrust and acrimony would continue to plague the people who are otherwise greatly gifted.
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