Sonia’s thankless job
Sonia’s thankless job, Union Minister Pallam Raju, Sonia Gandhi, Jai Samaikyandhra Party. People of Seemandhra are justifiably angry with Sonia Gandhi whose single-minded resolve was responsible for the division of the State.
A review of strengths and weaknesses of different parties in the fray in Telangana and Seemandhra makes it clear that the Congress is going to pay a heavy price in expected and unexpected areas. One would have thought Congress president Sonia Gandhi would be hated in Seemandhra and adored in Telangana. But the way political developments are taking place in Telangana, she is bound to face rough weather there too.
Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) that was supposed to merge with the Congress after the demand for separate statehood was conceded, not only refused to merge, but also decided not to have even a tie-up with the party that was instrumental in getting Telangana Bill passed by parliament. Even that stand is understandable in the given conditions. TRS is justified in keeping its identity intact and converting the movement into a political entity and fight to establish itself as an alternative to the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). In its attempt to ascertain its independence, the TRS has been, of late, getting strident in its attack on the Congress for the delay in granting Telangana besides many other issues.
On the other hand, our Kakinada correspondent says Union Minister Pallam Raju was not able to find candidates, in spite of his sincere efforts, to file nominations on behalf of the Congress in the Municipal elections. The fight is between YSRCP and the TDP with latter flexing its muscles on account of the likely alliance with the BJP and the Jana Sena of Power Star Pawan Kalyan. The Jai Samaikyandhra Party of former Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy would end up in single digit with only Kiran Reddy’s win a certainty. The Congress would not get more than a couple of Assembly seats in the whole of Seemandhra. The party has to wait for five years in limbo.
People of Seemandhra are justifiably angry with Sonia Gandhi whose single-minded resolve was responsible for the division of the State. But what about the people of Telangana? Is it fair to abandon Sonia Gandhi after achieving the statehood with her help and sacrifice? TRS leaders claim that it was they who suffered for 13 years. They cite the suicides by hundreds of youths and account them in their list of sacrifices. They even blame Sonia for their deaths since there would not have been any occasion to commit suicide had the UPA government gone for bifurcation of the State in a methodical and efficient way. They hold the Congress high command responsible for the untimely death of hundreds of youths.
It is true that the Congress party did not handle the issue of Telangana with tact and finesse. It mistook deception for tactics like TDP did. Sonia Gandhi did not motivate her colleagues in the party to take the message of bifurcation to the people of Seemandhra and convince them. The Congress party could have changed the discourse altogether had it not left the initiative in the hands of leaders like Lagadapati Rajagopal. There was no honest attempt to make use of the party leaders and cadres to persuade the people of Seemandhra to accept the reality of the Telangana sentiment. The Congress leaders were found wanting in every aspect. Sonia Gandhi did not pull them up for this attitude. Instead, she made up her mind to pay the price in Seemandhra by foregoing power. She was aware that her party would not get even ten per cent of 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats in that region. She perfectly understands the agony and compulsions of the Congress leaders there.
What she must be finding difficult to digest is the attitude of TRS and the Congress leaders in Telangana. Though K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), chief of the TRS, went calling to Sonia Gandhi’s residence with members of his family and had a thanksgiving group photo with her, he changed the tune the moment he landed in Hyderabad. It is surprising that almost 70 speakers in the TRS politburo meeting were unanimous in their opinion that the party should not merge with the Congress. It may not be a command performance but KCR could have got most of the speakers express a different opinion had he agreed with that. It is clear that it was the decision taken by KCR and his close advisers. The decision per se is quite correct in the sense that a regional party committed to the cause of Telangana development would be in order. But refusal to have a poll tie-up with the Congress smacks of ungrateful attitude.
Same can be said about the Congress leaders in Telangana. There was no leader who could organise public rallies to tell people that Sonia Gandhi gave them the separate state they have been demanding for decades. No Congress leader would come forward to answer KCR in the same devastating idiom. The party high command has its quota of blunders. But once a decision is taken by the party, the leaders down the line should accept and implement it. That did not happen. While the Congress leaders in Seemandhra had lost confidence of facing the electorate and started jumping parties in their unseemly search for winning ways, the leaders in Telangana did not have a leader to take the message to the masses. Senior leaders who have been calling shots all these years appear to be reluctant to cooperate with Ponnala Laxmaiah, newly anointed Telangana PCC chief. There are half a dozen Congress leaders in Telangana who consider themselves to be potent candidates for the post of chief minister. Every one of them has the ears of the party bosses in Delhi. They would fall in line only when the party in the State is led by leaders of the caliber of YS Rajasekhara Reddy or K Vijayabhaskara Reddy. In the absence of such a tall leader, the Congress party is unable to take advantage of the situation in Telangana leaving the field quite open to TRS.
Not having a tie-up is an option which has merit. Had the Congress and the TRS entered into an alliance, if not merger, the TDP and BJP could have gained in the constituencies where the votes are not transferred from the Congress to TRS. It happened in 2004 and 2009 when the Congress votes and TDP votes did not transfer to TRS resulting in giving many seats on a platter to the TDP and the Congress respectively. Though the sentiment for Telangana is bound to get weakened since Telangana State is certain to be a reality on the Appointed Day, June 2, people have to vote for a party which is best positioned to develop the new State. TDP and BJP have right credentials in this regard. TDP’s leader Chandrababu Naidu has a proven record to show and the BJP is slated to form NDA government after the general election. Modi in Delhi and Naidu’s representative as CM in Hyderabad would be an attractive proposition. This argument is sure to get votes for the TDP-BJP-JS alliance in Seemandhra. It may not jell well in Telangana since both the TDP and the JS are seen as opposed to bifurcation whatever Naidu and Pawan Kalyan might say. BJP is the only party in the combination which has pro-Telangana image. But that popularity is not enough to win seats.
The fight is going to be mainly between the Congress and the TRS. In the absence any strong Congress leader in the State to claim the credit for the creation of Telangana and the increasing presence of KCR who has the skills and guile of a seasoned politician, the TRS looks to be on the ascendency although it has been taking some decisions which are hurting the activists who suffered during the movement. Those who were responsible for attacks on Telangana activists in the long years of the movement are welcomed into the TRS causing heartburn to the activists. There have been some groups and individuals who did not find space in TRS. They are likely to go to the Congress. Had there been a merger or a tie-up these groups and individual leaders would have been forced to go to TDP or the BJP. Most of them came from extremist background and cannot think of the BJP. They have been extremely critical of TDP and joining that party would have been difficult. That way the decision not to have a tie-up has helped leaders to migrate to TRS or the Congress avoiding the TDP and BJP. The Congress and the TRS would be occupying the first and second positions in Telangana.
People are honest and grateful. They don’t relish any attempt to disown Sonia Gandhi or the Congress at least in this election. Trying to project the Congress president in poor light might boomerang.