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In pursuit of political mileage

Highlights

In pursuit of political mileage, K Ramachandra Murthy, Kiran Kumar Reddy, Seemandhra. The Congress and the BJP have been involved in a tug of war in Parliament to score brownie points.

It all boils down to political mileage. The Congress and the BJP have been involved in a tug of war in Parliament to score brownie points. The BJP is keen on being seen a political party which believes in inclusiveness. It has been insisting on addressing the concerns of Seemandhra people. The Congress party, which has provided for an attractive package for Seemandhra in its Bill, is busy in fire-fighting. It is not able to communicate with people. Its leaders have turned out to be a liability. It has nobody to blame except itself for the mess it finds itself in.

The Congress high command had adopted an extremely complicated strategy. While deciding to grant statehood for Telangana, it also wanted to keep its leaders in Seemandhra relevant by allowing them unstinted freedom to criticise the decision and castigate the national leadership. Instead of sitting with Congress leaders from all regions and thrashing out a formula which would displease the least, the high command chose to play tricks with the people. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy was left unchecked for too long when he was attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in strong terms for dividing the State for no tangible reason and splitting the Telugus for the sake of votes. He was competing with Chandrababu Naidu, TDP chief, and YS Jaganmohan Reddy, YSRCP president, in ridiculing the UPA government and the Congress party. All the three important leaders in the State have been telling the people repeatedly that Sonia Gandhi had resorted to ruin the future of the Telugu-speaking people only in order to make her son the prime minister. Congress leaders from Telangana were keeping quiet thinking that it is Sonia Gandhi’s headache to carve Telangana. They occasionally attack the CM and other leaders. But it was not consistent or substantial. The Central ministers from Seemandhra did no less damage to Sonia and her party. If the idea was to remain relevant in Seemandhra, it had utterly failed. Kiran Reddy has been repeatedly saying that the chances of the Congress winning are nil. He has made a mockery of governance during his tenure of three years. Nothing was done by the Centre or party high command to rein in the recalcitrant Chief Minister, Central Ministers and MPs. If giving unlimited freedom to the leaders from Seemandhra was considered a stratagem, it failed miserably. If the antics of Kiran Reddy was not part of the drama being directed by the Congress high command, the CM’s behavior tantamount to outright indiscipline. No other CM since independence had ever behaved the way Kiran Reddy did. A lightweight politician was permitted to strut around because of the flawed policy. Even on Wednesday, he behaved as though he is on a high moral ground and repeated the same old theory. Chidambaram told Barkha Dutt of NDTV that Kiran Reddy should have been removed much earlier. Even now, Kiran Reddy resigned, he was not asked to resign. One fails to understand the great merit in the Congress tactics of getting bashed by its own CM, Union Ministers, MPs and MLAs. In contrast, the BJP has got its act together on Telangana though it vacillated for a while.

The forces across the political parties that are opposed to division of the State had concentrated all their energies on the BJP. Had BJP buckled, Telangana Bill would not have been passed by the Lok Sabha. Since BJP expressed its willingness to support the Bill, Speaker Meira Kumar assumed that the majority in the House was in favour of the Bill and declared it passed by voice vote taking the mood of the House into consideration. The events on Monday and Tuesday have tilted the balance in favour of the Bill. Advani, the Bhishmacharya of the BJP, was thoroughly convinced that the Bill should not be allowed to be passed without debate. Stalling the Bill was one of his options. But Sushma Swaraj, the Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, was vociferous in her argument that the BJP could not go back on its word. Sushma came to Hyderabad four times to address rallies in Telangana.

In one of those shows of solidarity, she declared that she would come back to Hyderabad to either celebrate the Telangana victory or participate in the second phase of the movement to achieve Telangana. She has emerged out of the shadows of Advani who was not enthused and demonstrated his dissent clearly when various amendments were carried forward by not standing up for head count. It is a different matter that it was Advani who announced the BJP resolve to give statehood for Telangana during the Swarna Jayanti Yatra in 1997. It appears that TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu has reportedly met Narendra Modi, the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, and pressed him to keep the Bill in abeyance as a precondition for electoral tie-up. It was then that Modi is understood to have made a call to Rajnath Singh, BJP president, and asked him to go ahead and support the Bill.

There is yet another story making rounds that it was the “clear directive from the RSS” that clinched the issue. The RSS is understood to have sent a message that since the BJP is for small states, Telangana Bill should be supported without ifs and buts.

Whichever story is true, Sushma Swaraj connects with the people of Telangana better than any of the BJP leaders including Modi. After the Bill was passed by Lok Sabha by voice vote, Sushma told the people of Telangana, “While you give credit to Sonia amma, don’t forget to give credit to this chinnamma.” Meira Kumar, Speaker of Lok Sabha, who cooperated with the government to push the Bill through, could be considered as the third amma who helped in the Bill being passed by the Lower House.

While credit has to be given to Sonia Gandhi for solving a problem that has been creating bad blood for years, the way the UPA government sought to bifurcate the State left much to be desired. True, all the major parties in the State have been indulging in double-talk and deception in the name of tactics. In fact the strategy of the TDP is no different from that of the Congress. The TDP MPs have clashed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha just like their counterparts in the Congress. When CM Ramesh, from Seemandhra, tried to snatch papers from the Secretary General on Wednesday, it was Gundu Sudha Rani of the same party from Telangana region who prevented him forcibly. Rathod and Venugopal Reddy had exchanged blows in Lok Sabha. Naidu seems to be the biggest loser in the bargain. His MLAs in Telangana have been approaching the BJP leaders in Delhi. In his anxiety to counter YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Seemandhra, Naidu became extremely active in the last two weeks going round the country mustering support for his line of equal justice to both the regions. People of Telangana perceived Naidu as working to stall the Bill. That has put his party MLAs and other leaders in an awkward position. Senior TDP leaders in Telangana have started looking for safer bets. The loss of TDP may be gain for the BJP provided the two parties don’t have an electoral tie-up. The graph of YS Jaganmohan Reddy also has not been very encouraging although he has put up a good show in Delhi. He went to an extreme when he described Indian National Congress as Italian National Congress. The idea is to be seen as an uncompromising adversary of Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party.

It is difficult to say whether Kiran Reddy would float a party. What can be said without any fear of contradiction is that it would not make any difference. There will be no established leader to sail with him. His time in the limelight is over. The Congress leadership was successful in persuading a majority of the ministers in the State Cabinet to stay back in the party. Botcha Satyanarayana, Kanna Lakshminarayana and Chiranjeevi would perhaps have bigger roles to play in the party.

The most important job on hand for the Congress is to accept the amendments suggested by the BJP and take the main Opposition along to get the Bill passed in RS. There have been a series of meetings between the Congress and the BJP leaders. Since the BJP is equally interested as the Congress in passing the Bill, it may happen today. BJP would ensure that its amendments intended to assuage the feelings of the people of Seemandhra are incorporated in the Bill before it is passed by the RS today. The scores would be even.

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