Hope springs eternal!

Hope springs eternal!

The challenge before Sonia Gandhi is to keep Telangana with her without losing Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. She will take a decision that suits her...

The challenge before Sonia Gandhi is to keep Telangana with her without losing Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. She will take a decision that suits her political roadmap and the Congress leaders of all regions will have to accept it "Will Tomorrow Ever Come?" It is the title of a lyric made popular by Dance Hall Crashers, a Berkeley's spunk band from California. It begins with: Is it ever gonna come, I want to believe but I can't really see! In the middle of the song are a profound despair and a painful realization. "I am stuck- I can't get up I want to, but I can't stop the chase Want to win the race I know, it is a show." The song symbolizes eloquently the agony of the contemporary times in India, in general, and Andhra Pradesh, in particular. People of the State have been waiting for the tomorrow for more than a decade; a tomorrow that would resolve the conflict that has shred them into pieces, that has affected their culture, destroyed their sensibilities and shattered their mental peace. The news that the Congress high command has summoned the three musketeers of the party in AP, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, PCC president Botcha Satyanarayana and Deputy Chief Minister Damodar Rajanarasimha, to be available in Delhi tomorrow when the core committee meets has given rise to wild speculation once again. The T ball has been in the court of the Congress high command, presided over by Sonia Gandhi, for years, at least since December 9, 2009. The punch lines of the song are: "And you promise me You keep telling me Tomorrow is close but will it ever come?" People have been waiting for the day with bated breath, some with hope, some others with trepidation and many others with suspicion. It is the day when the Congress party is expected to decide its stand on Telangana issue. A day it hopefully resolves to end its dithering by stopping its foolish attempt to achieve the impossible of both backing the new State and preventing its birth. Even the politicians of other parties making stock statements, with cynical regularity, that they are not against Telangana statehood but the Congress has been deceiving the people, have been looking to New Delhi for the policy pronouncement by the Congress so that they in turn could fine-tune their strategies for the looming elections and think of changing the public discourse to their advantage. Are the people of the State emotionally surcharged? Are the expressed emotions real or contrived? Why are the youths in Telangana committing suicide, the latest being a young man at Warangal on Tuesday? Who is responsible for the untimely and unnatural death of so many youngsters? Is the demand for a separate State genuine? What are the real intentions of those who are asking for a division and those who are insisting on continuing as one State? Is the language employed by some politicians and other so-called leaders in the process of buttressing their point of view appropriate for a cultured and democratic society? What happened to the Telugus in Chennai after the politicians walked out of undivided Madras State to form their own Andhra State? How did the Gujaratis in Mumbai flourish after the State of Gujarat was carved out and the Gujarati politicians had left the commercial capital of India? What about the rapid progress made by Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand after coming into being as separate States? What was the reason for the double digit growth in Bihar in recent years? Although Jharkhand faltered on account of political instability, Bihar has boomed and got out of its BIMARU status. How do we explain this? Is the fear of Maoists taking over Telangana if it is given a separate statehood real or false? Are the claims on Hyderabad justified? Many such questions have been thrown up during the prolonged public debate. During the 30 episodes of Dasa-Disa (Status-Direction) programme conducted throughout the State for seven months, these and many more questions were asked and answered by politicians, professionals and common citizens. The jobs, the waters, the security, etc have been discussed at length. Real and perceived threats have been examined threadbare. The roadmaps by the three top leaders of the Congress party in the State are a formality to help the high command to be seen as consulting the stakeholders and not taking unilateral decisions. But the fact is it is only Sonia Gandhi who has to take a decision and take responsibility. All others are there only to give inputs, most of which are contradictory. It is, after all, a show. Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi have been briefed on these questions. They are perhaps aware of the correct answers. They appreciate the compulsions of the politicians who are worried about next elections. The politicians of AP today speak the language that goes well with their constituencies back home. Whether they are in Delhi or in Hyderabad, what they say is designed to impress their voters. The angry outbursts and the loud protestations are all part of the political positioning. Never mind the threats held out by the leaders of Telangana or Rayalaseema or Coastal Andhra that there would be dangerous consequences if the demand of Telangana is conceded or rejected. It is part of the show. An important factor that the famous columnist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar claims to have identified is the orgy of land speculation in the last couple of decades (the main reason for the fall of Ramalingaraju of Satyam) has been specialized by some Coastal Andhra individuals for whom it is a veritable passion. He says vast amounts of land in Hyderabad were occupied in questionable ways. Telangana protagonists describe this as quasi-colonialism. Aiyar also alleges that some leaders in Telangana at the helm of the movement are waiting for those land grabbers to leave so that they can lay their hands on prime properties in Hyderabad. The negative propaganda was reportedly orchestrated by these vested interests. The heat in the debates and the bad blood in social life are the creation of these elements. Politicians are either grabbers themselves or supporters of the grabbers. Digvijay Singh, who was Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for two terms, knows the politicians and their ways. The Congress high command knows how to tame the paper tigers. We scarcely hear nowadays an MP who used to address the media in Hyderabad every fortnight whenever there was a development on the question of Telangana. For ordinary citizens who have no vested interest, it does not really matter. When the Telugus are building bridges between AP, other States in India, Gulf, US and Europe, the apprehensions that the Telugu race would suffer if the State is divided are untenable. A decision to divide the State or keep it united is not going to alter the lives of the people. For reasons best known to them, President Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Antony and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde are believed to be not favourbly disposed towards the idea of demerger of AP. The President cannot discuss politics in public and the other two leaders have limited stakes in power. Sonia, as the major stakeholder, and Rahul as the political heir, have to take a decision keeping in view the prospects of general elections in 2014. Sonia Gandhi cannot take chances with a State that has catapulted her party to power at the Centre and in the State both in 2004 and 2009. The Telangana region has in the last general election given 12 out of 17 Lok Sabha seats whereas the rest of the 21 came from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. The challenge before Sonia Gandhi is to keep Telangana with her without losing Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. She will take a decision that suits her political roadmap and the Congress leaders of all regions will have to accept it. Other political parties would surely take the stand that would help them politically in the given situation. It all depends on the decision of the Congress and UPA. The Congress core committee would first finalise the policy of the ruling party and then convene a meeting of the constituents of the UPA coalition. The people of AP have to accept any decision with equanimity though they can vote according to their perception of justice or injustice. Let the decision not disturb the harmony. If the decision is to keep the State united, it is fine. It is fine even otherwise. Heavens are not going to fall, either way. Thanks to the software revolution the world has become a small village. We are all citizens of the world first, of India next and AP last; not the other way round. Asking for a smaller State means demanding political control that benefits the locals, be it Telangana, Vidarbha or Bodoland. Modern India was made from colonial territory and 500-odd princely realms. There have been changes in the borders of States since 1956 according to language or cultural identity. The NDA in 2000 had divided three States in Hindi heartland, cutting each into two parts. Language and culture have ceased to be the reason for not accepting the demand of division. We have monsters like UP and minnows like Sikkim. Mayawati, the BSP chief, supported the idea of dividing UP into four States for better administration when she was the chief minister. The population of UP and Maharashtra together is some 32 crore which is greater than that of the US which has 50 States. By mid-century India's population is expected to be 160 crore. We now have 35 States and Union Territories. If we refuse to go in for smaller States, we will have to accommodate the increased population in the same number of States making governance impossible. We need to add another 25 to 30 States for administration to be viable and effective. The ruling party in any State would oppose division since it would cut down the area under its rule. Emotions are attached with the people who demand for a separate State, not those who wish to stay united. Why is Undavalli Arun Kumar, Rajahmundry MP, so surcharged? Is he against K Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief, or against the statehood for Telangana? He appeared in his annual "Progress Report Meet" on Wednesday to be more opposed to KCR than Telengana. Many politicians and ordinary persons in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema denounce KCR because of his language which hurts. But one has to accept that there is violence only in his language and not the movement which has been by and large peaceful. The need of the hour is for sober politicians and intellectuals from all regions to come together and take fresh initiative to prevent any more mischief by politicians. They have damaged enough. The Dance Hall Crashers' lyric ends with the line: "Will I be happy tomorrow?". We have to learn to be happy the day after the decision, whatever be the decision.
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