New set of rulers too failed Telangana: Kodandaram
Telangana Jana Samithi chief Prof M Kodandaram predicts victory for Mahakutami
Telangana Jana Samithi chief Prof M Kodandaram predicts victory for Mahakutami
You are considered as one of the torchbearers of Telangana statehood movement. Under your leadership as TJAC chairman the separate state dream was also realised and Telangana came into being as 29th State in country from June 2, 2014. Many Telangana protagonists from non-political backgrounds, who traversed with you in statehood agitation, ventured into politics at that time but not Kodandaram. You started a new political outfit in 2018, that is after four years after formation of the State. In the hindsight, do you think you should have entered politics in 2104 itself?
Entering into politics was not in our plans or in remotest of thoughts in 2014. After prolonged discussions with likeminded groups, organisations and civil society, we decided to play the role of a “watch dog” in the newly-formed State. We wanted to work in realms of civil society to protect interests of the new Telangana State at that time. Even Prof Jayashankar, much before his death, wanted us to continue our efforts for all-round development of Telangana, outside of political system, once the State was achieved. Joining a political party meant toeing that party line, which meant losing our freedom to speak on behalf of people when required. We wanted to act as an alternative voice in a non-party set-up at that time. Also, at that time Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) was looked at as political face of Telangana.
You said you wanted to work outside of politics. But it is well known that Aam Aadmi Party and Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India and many well-wishers from within Telangana have egged you on joining politics for a long time for all- round development in the new State. What prompted Prof Kodandaram to change his mind and launch a new political outfit four years after realisation of statehood dream?
Four years’ experience as a civil society is completely different and at variance from what we have actually witnessed in the statehood movement. In the statehood movement, we fought against Seemandhra rulers and capitalists. We were all united and we knew that once new state was created a new set of rulers from Telangana would emerge and they would be more open and democratic. There was hope that once Telangana was created political atmosphere would automatically change. But during last four years this has not happened at all. There is a change in set of rulers. The old rulers have gone, and new rulers have come to manage the affairs in the new State. But these new rulers are as bad as the old rulers. We have seen a change in administrative set-up and regime, but not in governance at all. So, this prompted us to reflect on politics. We concluded that unless entering politics we cannot realise or achieve our objectives and hence the decision to float TJS.
Initially after formation of the new party, TJS has announced that it would explore contesting all seats in Telangana. However, once Telangana Assembly has been dissolved some of the opposition parties are leaving no stone unturned to stitch Mahakutami to take on the might of KCR-led TRS. TJS’s fresh stand to go for alliance has been criticised by K T Rama Rao and T Harish Rao on few occasions. TRS is challenging you to contest all 119 seats instead of a few seats to know if public is behind them or not. What is your view?
We are keen on an alliance for two reasons---there is pressure within our ranks to join hands with other likeminded parties to dethrone TRS government and also end autocratic rule of K Chandrashekar Rao. Idea was not to split anti-incumbency votes among opposition parties in case of entering fray separately. To show an alternative is possible to the TRS government, opposition parties are joining hands to put up a unified show. We want to end autocratic rule and democratise the government and governance. The second reason is that elections have been necessitated because of dissolving Assembly nine months ahead of the end of scheduled five-year term. Political atmosphere in the State changed and we thought of building a new political party at this juncture is not so easy. We thought we can contribute to the change only by being part of an alliance instead of working separately on our own.
TJS, however, has set riders for being part of the alliance
We thought alliance should not be just for the sake of power but there has to be some kind of agenda. The alliance is to realise an agenda rather than to simply realise a political ambition. It is for the sake of agenda TJS has decided to forge an alliance with other parties, which also endorsed our view. Agenda keeps parties and people united and it gives them a sense of purpose and direction. It also becomes the basis for a collective activity for all alliance parties.
TRS says KCR-led government did a lot in Telangana in last four and half-years. To name a few, uninterrupted power supply across the state and various welfare schemes including pensions are being majorly highlighted on various platforms. How are opposition parties looking at TRS governance?
Any government’s work should be gauged with how it engages with people and society at large. Remember TRS has come to power after a prolonged agitation for a separate State. However, to everybody’s dismay the party in power has become indifferent to aspirations of statehood movement. Instead of implementing statehood aspirations, it tried to use resources to benefit contractors and thus lost touch with people completely. There is no interaction with common public. The Chief Minister does not come to office. Neither Ministers nor legislators are authoried to engage with people for addressing issues. We have not seen a more oppressive regime than this. Even if people tried to bring their issues to limelight in a democratic manner, they are not allowed. Dharna Chowk is closed, and restrictions are imposed for meetings in Hyderabad. What we dreamt of during agitation period and what we are seeing in the new State is completely different. We thought people will be benefitted and live happily. However, it did not happen and hence people are angry. As regards, implementation of welfare schemes, Supreme Court itself stated that it was the duty of government in power to take measures for upliftment of the poor and deprived sections. Talking about 24-hour power supply, there is surplus availability in rest of India and the Telangana government took measures to buy it. However, it lost credibility by buying power at very high rates, and thus burdening the department.
In 2009, all opposition parties formed Mahakutami to fight Y S Rajashekar Reddy-led Congress government, but eventually lost the battle. The Congress pinned hopes on beneficiaries of various schemes implemented by YSR to lead the party to victory at that time. TRS functionaries are predicting an encore in the upcoming election battle with KCR-led TRS prevailing over Congress-led Mahakutami. What’s your view?
It is understandable to think that beneficiaries of welfare schemes would be loyal or support the ruling party. However, people’s perception is different now. They know that welfare scheme is their right and not a personal benefit or act of charity of the government. To say that welfare schemes implementation will fetch votes for TRS is not right because people are fed up with the family driven and autocratic rule. While the entire Telangana fought united in statehood agitation, the benefits have only gone to one family which is why all sections are annoyed and angry.
TRS president K Chandrashekar Rao has taken strong objection to bitter political rivals Congress, TDP joining hands in Telangana for elections. He says people of Telangana have to compromise their self-rule which would now be dictated from Amaravati and Delhi. What TJS has to say on this?
We are insisting on framework and well-defined machinery in government that will work for interests of people and region. Telangana, which was formed after a prolonged battle, is not in a position to submit it to external and outside forces. Any such attempt by a political party would be bound to ruin their political prospects in Telangana in future. Ruling from Amaravati and New Delhi will not happen. If any political party tries to come under the influence of outside forces, people will not tolerate. TJS being part of this political set-up will strongly oppose any such attempts.