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AP in catch-22 situation

Highlights

AP in Catch-22 Situation. The actions and comments of political leaders in AP have ceased to make any sense. This is a general comment by any political observer settled in Hyderabad or Delhi.

The actions and comments of political leaders in AP have ceased to make any sense. This is a general comment by any political observer settled in Hyderabad or Delhi. CPM leader BV Raghavulu has demanded to know why Chandrababu Naidu and YS Jaganmohan Reddy (YSJ) have been starving. What is that they want? Both leaders cannot give a convincing answer.

Raghavulu has had the experience of dealing with Naidu. They fought elections together. The relationship of the CPM with the YSRCP has just begun. Even if Naidu has been known to Raghavulu for years, the latter could not make out why Naidu is on fast. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy’s actions also defy logic. He promises to stay on and fight. If a Congressman wants to fight his party high command, he has to get out of the party and do so. That was what many stalwarts like Subhas Chandra Bose, Rajaji, Kripalani and NG Ranga did. How can a high command appointee stay on and fight the same high command?
To know answers to these and many other questions, one should have empathy and a little bit of sympathy for the dramatis personae. Those who read the satirical novel, Catch-22, would understand. For those who could not read, suffice it to say that, more than the novel, the title has become part of the lexicon. It is now political jargon. It refers to a vicious circle wherein an absurd, no-win choice, particularly in situations in which the desired outcome is impossible and regardless of choice, a negative outcome is a certainty. It means a self-contradictory circular logic that prevents anyone from avoiding a combat mission. Win or lose, fight you must. If Joseph Heller, author of the great fiction of World War-II vintage, were alive today he would do a second sequel. “The Closing Time” was the first one. The title of the new novel would have been “The Fighting Time.” He would have found funnier and meatier characters in AP.
If you imagine yourself in Naidu’s shoes, you would probably appreciate his compulsions. Naidu and YSJ are forced into a situation where each one has to practice the art of successively outdoing the competitor. One has to win every day and on every occasion. Both of them have been trying to fill the vacuum created by the Congress party in Seemandhra. The basic assumption is that the Congress has chosen to lose in Seemandhra in order to gain in Telangana since it is impossible to gain in both the regions.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi must have reasoned that it is better to win one region by keeping a promise rather than losing in both the regions by violating it. Even if the promise to the people of Telangana is broken, there is no guarantee that the Congress would sweep in Seemandhra with YSJ and Naidu coming first and second in successive opinion polls. If we try to understand Sonia’s compulsions, it would be clear that she had no other option.
It is uncharitable to say that she chose to tear the State apart into two only to make her son the prime minister or only after entering into a deal with YSJ. She had only two options before her: break the promise and lose out in both the regions or keep the promise and win at least one region, though a smaller one. Sonia is a full-time politician and she is expected to do whatever is beneficial to her party and her family, not necessarily in that order. They are not mutually contradictory either.
Extend the same logic to Naidu. He lost two successive general elections. He moved heaven and earth and even went to the extent of having a tie-up with his bête noire K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) to somehow vanquish the giant of a politician (at that particular juncture) YS Rajasekhara Reddy. He thought ends, not means, were important. In the process, he had to give a letter to the Pranab Mukherjee Committee recommending statehood to Telangana. But he never bargained that Sonia Gandhi who had put the T decision on the backburner would suddenly bring it to the fore. A surprised Naidu had to summon all his wits and wile to keep the battle going with more vigor. A seasoned and accomplished politician, Naidu never gives up. It was clear to him at once that the Congress had played its cards with consummate skill to destabilize his party.
The Congress would have a clear advantage in Telangana region after the T decision. YSJ was very quick in deciding to vacate Telangana for all practical purposes so that he can concentrate on Seemandhra. He has been championing the cause of integration. Fast is intended to up the ante. Naidu had to fight for his place in Seemandhra without forfeiting his claim on Telangana. It is truly a delicate balancing act which only an expert like Naidu can perform. He could not abandon the two-eye theory. Carrying conviction with the TDP leaders in Telangana while speaking during his tours in Seemandhra in favour of integration is a challenge before him. He knows, as do others, that it is impossible to stop statehood for Telangana. The fight, in real terms, is for a hold on Seemandhra, the residuary State of AP. He flays the Congress for taking decisions without consulting him and other stakeholders. He demands justice to Seemandhra while, at the same time, reiterating that he is not against statehood for Telangana. It is extremely difficult to send home this kind of complex political message successfully.
Naidu’s chances depend on how best he communicates to the voters the conspiracy theory. His allegation is that the Congress hatched a conspiracy with the YSRCP to divide the State and to marginalize the TDP. The bail granted by the CBI court, he argues, was the result of such an understanding. The Congress party is utterly unpopular. YSJ owes his popularity to the hero image he acquired because he was fighting against the mightiest politician in the land, Sonia Gandhi. If Naidu can make the people believe that YSJ had surrendered to Sonia Gandhi for the sake of his freedom from Chanchalguda jail, he would be able to score over the young challenger. If he can also rope in the BJP, he might be able to fortify his base in Seemandhra and even try to win considerable number of seats in Telangana as well. If Naidu and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, can address half a dozen election meetings together, the edge enjoyed by the Congress in Telangana and the YSRCP in Seemandhra can hopefully be blunted.
YSJ has to urgently debunk the allegation that his party entered into an unholy understanding and preempt the possibility of a tie-up between the TDP and the BJP. The politics of one-upmanship was responsible for YSJ’s diatribe against Sonia Gandhi. He alleged that Sonia had taken the decision to bifurcate the State for making her son Prime Minister. He praised Narendra Modi, the man who is gearing up to conquer New Delhi, to send a message to the people that he is not in league with the Congress. He also wanted to convey to the BJP leadership that it can think of YSRCP for support after the election instead of joining hands with the TDP before elections.
Vijayamma, honorary president of YSRCP, met Rajnath Singh, BJP president, in Delhi on Wednesday to seek support for keeping the State united. YSJ may have succeeded in confusing the BJP leaders, preventing them from reviving their friendship with the TDP. According to BJP sources, Modi was not very eager to meet Naidu one-on-one when the latter was in Delhi last week to share the dais with the former. Whether the YSRCP would support the NDA after the polls is a moot point. It depends on a number of factors. YSJ knows only too well that his fast cannot stop the Centre from dividing the State. It would help impress the people of Seemandhra that he fought resolutely to protect their interests. Competing for political brownie points is the name of the game played furiously by Naidu and YSJ.
There is a third person in this game who cannot be ignored and who is as keen as the other two in this fight. Kiran Kumar Reddy told leaders of APNGOs at the Secretariat on Wednesday, when they met him for talks, that the State cannot be bifurcated as long as he is in the office. He is fully aware that bifurcation cannot be stopped and he would be removed, if necessary, to facilitate division. He has been, in fact, asking for the sack. He has his own reasons. Kiran is not like Digvijay Singh in 2000 who, as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, cooperated with the NDA government in creating Chhattisgarh. There was no acrimony at the time between the people of MP and of Chhattisgarh. There was no bone of contention like Hyderabad; no quarrel about jobs.
Kiran can claim that he is a pucca Hyderabadi, born and brought up in the capital city. But he fought his elections from Vayalpadu or Piler in Chittoor district. He has to keep his constituency with him. He has also to think of his rivals. When Naidu and Jagan are championing the cause of integration, one directly and the other indirectly, Kiran cannot be far behind. He cannot be seen as a Chief Minister who collaborated with the Centre to divide the State. He had the compulsion, and his party high command understood that to an extent and allowed him the freedom. It did not take action even when he refused to move the Telangana resolution in the Assembly. His repeated acts of defiance and the harsh language he chose to use in declaring his political preferences have attracted the ire of the High Command.
The Centre is reportedly preparing ground for imposition of President’s rule and implementing the Punjab model (1966-67) if it is unavoidable. Kiran has become popular in Seemandhra although his party and government became extremely unpopular. Without having to fast or travel or organise public meetings, Kiran could convey to the people of the State, through a couple of well thought out media conferences, that he is as uncompromising as anyone else on the issue of integration.
APNGOs also are aware that they cannot stall bifurcation. Ashok Babu is intelligent enough to know that he cannot lead the high- profile show for more than two months. The spectacular and successful agitation could not make any difference. Even the resignations by the Union Ministers from Seemandhra have proved to be of no consequence. The employees and the general public have suffered a lot. When it comes to calling off the strike, the main points on the agenda would be about the wages during the strike period, treating the strike days as leave and other such things.
Nobody can assure them that the State would be intact. It is an emotional issue and they had to register their protest and convey their concerns. They did that quite well. They cannot be expected to play the role of politicians and the civil society. But they were forced to go on strike to effectively express their concerns about jobs, Hyderabad, river waters, etc. They took all the trouble with explicit knowledge that the CWC resolution is most likely to be implemented. None could avoid the combat mission. The UPA-II also cannot avoid a showdown. It is inbuilt in the situation thanks to the double bind in which all political parties find themselves.
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