Politics as cricket!
Politics as cricket!, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Congress in Telangana. The leaders of the Congress in Telangana, and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leaders are understandably upset.
In this game of one-upmanship, it is difficult to say who is playing the trick against whom and who is co-opting whom. It can be an inter-party or an intra-party affair, or both. What is seen is perhaps not real and what is real is not seen. The singular irrationality and highly deceptive nature of the game is unique to the political leaders of Andhra Pradesh.
We are aware that Kiran Kumar Reddy was a consummate cricketer, an accomplished captain and a gifted batsman. He also appears to be an all-rounder. He is not only adept at applying cricketing strategy and sense of timing to politics, but he is also a clever bowler. He has peaked in the final overs of the match and hurled a googly at the opponents by divesting Sridhar Babu of a very crucial portfolio of legislative affairs at a particularly critical time, three days before the Assembly meet. The 20-20 match that had started on July 30 last year when the Congress Working Committee passed the Telangana resolution has been taking turns and twists with every ball bowled. The vicious turn on the New Year’s Eve was a bolt from the blue that fell on the unsuspecting head of the young Telangana Minister.
Whatever may be the motives of Kiran Reddy, his tactics and timing have to be commended. He has been confusing the fielders and umpires all these days, playing the ball in a dangerous fashion but defending his wicket although no runs have been scored. The chief minister seems to have secret friends in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (read the Congress high command) which has been flouting all the rules refusing to give the batsman out. When Jana Reddy, a senior Minister from Telangana, telephoned Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of AP, to ask him about the change in the portfolio, Singh feigned innocence and promised to find out. His promises of finding have never been fulfilled in the case of Kiran Reddy who comes across as an ace gambler who would not give up till the last dice is thrown.
The leaders of the Congress in Telangana, and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leaders are understandably upset. The Congress leaders had met Governor Narasimhan who, like President Pranab Mukherjee, gave a patient hearing. Even Union Minister Jaipal Reddy thought it necessary to call for a media conference to condemn Kiran Reddy’s latest action of provocation. He said it is part of the conspiracy to stall the AP Reorganisation Bill, 2013. Counseling patience, he asked the people of Telangana not to lose cool on this account as the Bill is sure to be tabled in parliament in the first week of February.
The Ministers and other leaders across the parties in Seemandhra were understandably supportive of the move by the chief minister to transfer legislative affairs portfolio to Sailajanath, a die-hard integrationist. There is nothing unconstitutional about the CM’s move as change of portfolios of the Ministers is his prerogative.
Sridhar Babu and Kiran Kumar Reddy are known to be close friends. With his googly, Kiran Reddy has reinforced his captaincy of Seemandhra team while making Sridhar Babu a hero in Telangana. The Minister from Karimnagar may have refused to accept the otherwise attractive portfolio of Commercial Taxes, but there seems to be something intriguing in the episode. In this game of one-upmanship, it is difficult to say who is playing the trick against whom and who is co-opting whom. It can be an inter-party or an intra-party affair, or both. What is seen is perhaps not real and what is real is not seen. The singular irrationality and highly deceptive nature of the game is unique to the political leaders of Andhra Pradesh.
If the talk in political circles in the State on Wednesday is anything to go by, Kiran Reddy is reportedly planning to move a ‘Samaikyandhra Resolution’ urging the President to keep the State united. He would probably insist on putting it to vote and get it passed.
The selection of Sailajanath is an indication of things to come. Kiran Reddy has made it clear that the debate would take place in the Assembly on the desirability or otherwise of keeping the State united. But he did not explain whether the debate would be based on the draft Bill that was referred to the Assembly by the President or it would be both on the draft Bill and the resolution demanding preservation of the integrity of the State.
The chief minister is likely to goad the Speaker into organising a fresh meeting of the Business Advisory Committee in which he would insist that the united AP resolution should be allowed to be tabled. Since Speaker Nadendla Manohar ruled out both his deputy Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka and Minister for Legislative Affairs till Tuesday evening, Sridhar Babu, and declared that the debate on the draft Bill had not yet started, Sailajanath would be asked by the Speaker to start the debate on the 3rd when the Assembly is reconvened. Kiran Reddy has wrested the initiative from a Telangana Minister who refused to prorogue the Assembly as desired by him. Now he can have his way since the majority in the Assembly is with him.
The Congress high command has no option other than bearing with him with all the embarrassment for some uncertain gains in the general election. If the theory of secret understanding between the party high command and the chief minister is wrong, then the party leadership will have to take steps to replace him by someone else or go for President’s rule. Dismissing its own government and imposing President’s rule a few months before elections is not going to be easy to defend.
Whatever may be the understanding or lack of it between the chief minister and the Congress high command, the ultimate target seems to be the chief of the Telugu Desam Party. It is only the TDP which has been maintaining a neutral stand, though it is disputed by the Telangana protagonists, on the question of bifurcation. The farthest the TDP chief went was to demand that the concerns of the Seemandhra people have to be addressed before the State is divided. He did not oppose division per se. The YSRCP had walked out of Telangana abandoning 119 seats and concentrated its efforts in Seemandhra. It may contest in Telangana constituencies, but it would do so only as a party which is seen as opposing bifurcation tooth and nail.
The chief minister has been allowed to continue in office even while debunking the decision of his party high command and the Union government headed by his party Prime Minister. For all practical purposes, the Congress has been vertically divided and the Congress leaders in Seemandhra are seen as revolting against their own supreme leader. For example, Undavalli Arun Kumar, who was the translator for Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, is up in arms against his benefactor for the sake of fighting to prevent bifurcation. He is sure to be considered as more inclined to protect the integrity of the State than, say, Murali Mohan who is Naidu’s candidate in Rajahmundry. Arun Kumar may contest as a candidate of the party that is supposed to be floated by the chief minister. Sailajanath would be more popular than Payyavula Kesav, for instance, if resistance to the T Bill is the only criterion. It is natural for any Opposition leader to criticise or oppose a Bill that was proposed by the government. But for a Minister to speak against the official Bill is something unusual and he would be considered a rebel. That is at least what the Congress leaders hope.
What stand would the leader of the Opposition take on the resolution to be tabled by the official group headed by the chief minister? Would he speak in favour of keeping the State united or would he oppose the move? It is going to be a tricky situation. At a time when Naidu is seen consolidating his position in Seemandhra while protecting the party base in Telangana and a tie-up with the BJP is about to happen, the resolution of united AP might force him to take a stand that he has been avoiding all these months in spite of acute pressure from his colleagues in Seemandhra. He had taken lot of pains to keep the party in both the regions intact. It is going to be a test of his resourcefulness once again. Naidu’s contention that all the moves by the Congress, the YSRCP and the TRS on the question of Telangana are aimed at isolating him and weakening his party makes some sense in the light of the latest developments.