Archive for July, 2013

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Millions of Telugu people in Andhra Pradesh and across the globe are in a great deal of anguish tonight. Congress Party and the UPA have officially announced that they would like to divide the great state of Andhra Pradesh for their myopic political gains. Congress Party in one master stroke checkmated TRS, TDP, and the BJP. Sadly crores of Telugu people have become victims to this vicious poitical one upmanship.

 

Our state came into existence in 1956 after half a century of struggles and sacrifices of our forefathers hailing from all three regions of the state. Today that state is at the risk of being shattered to pieces. After Satavahanas, Telugu country was resurrected by the Kakatiyas after a century long struggle. Today, we yet again risk losing everything we fought for. We cannot let this atrocity happen.

 

Unlike the December 9th 2009 announcement by the central government and the subsequent retraction on December 23rd, this time a similar course of action will not work. Congress Party was shell-shocked by the mass uprising in December 2009. However, they are better prepared this time.

 

So, how can we stop this?

 

First and foremost Integrationist MPs and MLAs should NOT resign. There are two important battles coming up- one in the state assembly and the other in parliament. Resignation of our representatives is simply suicidal to our cause.

 

CM and ministers should NOT resign. Integrationist MLAs should rally across the party lines to keep the current administration in power. Kiran Kumar Reddy is a staunch integrationist. He should be in power and defy Congress Party diktats that come from Delhi. If integrationists across parties covertly support the current government, keeping Kiran in power is a piece of cake.

 

Lastly and most importantly, the responsibility of stopping the division squarely rests on people’s shoulders. Integrationist movement is suffering from a leadership void. We need an organization that will be at the forefront of the movement. This platform should have representatives from Congress, TDP, YSRCP, Students, Farmers, and Government employees.

 

The division can be stopped if people agitate, but they must agitate peacefully. A violent agitation is unsustainable and will be quickly quelled by force. We can learn a lesson or two from Mahatma Gandhi. You want a bandh? Convince people to voluntarily shut their businesses in solidarity. Yes, this method is harder than threatening the business owner with a stick. But the former method is the only way a sustainable movement can be built.

 

Want a rail-roko? Do not sit on the tracks and get arrested. Convince the engine drivers to call in sick or urge the passengers to postpone their travel. This is far more impactful than forcing the trains to stop.

 

Need financial help to conduct activities? Do not turn fund collection into a chandha-dandha. Go to donors and show them your plan of action and convince them to donate.

 

Building a movement like this is difficult? Yes, of course. But Gandhiji has shown us the way. He has done it and it is imperative that we walk in the path he has shown us.

 

The only way state division can be stopped, is via a peaceful people’s agitation that paralyzes the entire state’s economy. Add to this a sympathetic state government that defies Delhi’s diktats. We must adopt civil disobedience and political disobedience.

 

If we stop this atrocity in Andhra Pradesh, the nation will be grateful to us. Delhi sultans will learn a lesson and never again wreak this kind of havoc on other states in the Indian republic.

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Congress Party is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. If a decision to divide the state is taken, the party may have to face the ire of the people of Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema, and Greater Hyderabad where the desire for integration is strong. Whereas, a decision taken against division would affect the electoral prospects of Congress Party in 3-4 Telangana districts. It is certain that both the decisions could potentially jeopardize Congress Party’s electoral prospects in the state.

 

There are a total of 294 Assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh. Out of which 175 seats are in the Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Ranga Reddy districts have 28 Assembly seats where the desire for separation is non-existent. In the Telangana districts surrounding Hyderabad there are roughly an additional 20 Assembly seats where the sentiment for separation is muted. Therefore, the separate Telangana issue is in intense play in about 70 ACs.

 

These numbers clearly indicate that a large majority of the population in the state does not want the state divided.

 

The quandary that the Congress is facing in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions is the Jagan factor. YSRCP is perceived to be a strong contender in the upcoming elections in these two regions. Some in Congress Party think that dividing the state would help them win seats in the Telangana region, and that will offset their losses in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough seats in Telangana to overcome the losses that the party will endure in the other two regions.

 

So, how can Congress get out of this difficult situation and still be a winner?

 

It is undeniable that there is a strong sentiment against division in nearly 200 Assembly seats in the state. Unfortunately, no major party is catering to this people’s desire for integration. TDP, BJP, CPI, TRS are all for division. YSRCP is playing truant being a cat on the wall. CPM pays lip service for integration. That leaves MIM as the only party staunchly standing against division of the state.

 

If Congress Party, in Smt.Indira Gandhiji’s footsteps, takes an unequivocal stand against division of Andhra Pradesh, it will become the party of choice for millions of voters that have a burning desire to keep the state united. Combine this decision with an alliance with MIM, and there emerges the winning strategy. The Muslim vote bank, energized by anti-Modi sentiment, could be a tie-breaker in many constituencies in the state in the upcoming elections.

 

Now, what happens in the Telangana region? Will the Congress Party have to pay a steep price in the region? Not necessarily… Following steps will mitigate the hurt sentiments of the people in the region.

 

Those who are demanding the division of the state mainly allege that- injustice was done in government jobs, education, river waters and political power.

 

Over the last few years, with the implementation of 610 GO and other policy changes brought in by the state government, the issue of government jobs is for all practical purposes a mute issue. Now, the separatists allege under representation in state level offices such as the State Secretariat. An amicable solution to this is to adopt a quota system by district and by zones to hire employees even to the state level offices.

 

Education is another controversial sector. This could also be resolved by allocating funds equitably to each district based on population or other relevant socio-economic indicators. In addition, empower districts to manage their own education system. This kind of decentralization will no longer give scope for allegations of step-motherly treatment towards one region or the other.

 

River waters have been contentious issues for decades. Though inter-state river water allocations are done as per the Central Government appointed tribunals such as the prior Bachawat tribunal or the current Brijesh Kumar tribunal, allocation of river water within the state is under the state government’s purview. This gives rise to a great deal of suspicion and creates misunderstanding among regions. Therefore, the power to allocate or re-allocate river waters to different projects in the state should be given to the state legislature via a simple or a 2/3rd majority.

 

Lastly, separatists allege that the political power is often in the hands of leaders from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Though evidence suggests that this is not true, these misgivings can be addressed via decentralization of power to the district level.

 

73rd constitutional amendment allows State Government to empower Panchayats to become self-governing institutions. Today the Panchayat system in Andhra Pradesh is not independent, but is tightly controlled by the State government. Indian constitution allows Panchayats to acts as units of self-government. According to the 73rd amendment, Panchayats can prepare and implement ‘plans for economic development and social justice’. In addition, the state legislature can authorize the Panchayats to “levy, collect, and appropriate such taxes, duties, tolls and fees…”

 

A truly autonomous Panchayat Raj system, with little to no interference from the State government, along with the power to pool its own finances, plus a lion’s share of state budget allocated to Zilla Parishads will bring about a meaningful decentralization of power to the state of Andhra Pradesh. This will permanently put to rest apprehensions held by the separatists with regards to denial of political power.

 

An unequivocal commitment to linguistic states principle, in the footsteps of Smt.Indiraji, clubbed with meaningful steps taken to allay the apprehensions held by those that are demanding the division of the State will offer a win-win solution for the Congress Party. This approach will win over the hearts of a majority of the people in Andhra Pradesh and will better Congress’ electoral prospects. In the end, Congress Party will gain respect as a party that stuck to its principles while refusing to play politics on a sensitive national issue.

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

 

Rumour mills are working overtime.

 

The story doing the rounds is that the division of Andhra Pradesh is imminent.

 

There are several variants to the story, depending on from whom you hear it. But the main theme runs like this:

 

Sonia Gandhi has taken a decision to divide Andhra Pradesh.

 

The basis for this decision is the parting advice given by Gulam Nabi Azad who, until about a few days ago, was in charge of congress affairs in the state. He is believed to have given her the following formula: divide the state in such a way that the two parts will have 21 Lok Sabha seats each. That would mean adding two Rayalaseema districts – Anantapur and Kurnool – to the Telangana districts to form a state with Hyderabad as its capital.

 

Azad’s formula is supposedly a political master stroke, these rumour mongers will want us to believe. It would in one shot finish off KCR and TRS in Telangana and also undermine the strength of Jagan Reddy by distributing his regional base between two states. Congress will, in the process, gain considerably in Telangana region as the ‘giver’ of Telangana, and because of weakening of Jagan, will also be in the reckoning in the Coastal and Rayalaseema regions in the 2014 elections.

 

This, according to rumours, is the basis for the Congress decision to divide the state.

 

Some mills added a bit of spice to the story. They say that the TRS chief is completely sidelined in this saga. It is Prof Kodandaram, the chairman of T-JAC, who was taken into confidence and Rahul Gandhi supposedly had an hour long chat with him on the proposal to divide the state.

 

Some divine that the 30 June public meeting organised by the Congress leaders in Hyderabad was done at the behest of their high command. The intention of the central leadership is to position the Telangana congress leaders to take credit for the creation of a separate state of Telangana. Some others say it was not the high command which directly asked them to hold the rally, but told Jaipal Reddy who in turn told his camp follower Jana Reddy to organise the show. The rally ensured, our mills suggest, that the credit for dividing the state would go to Congress and not to the TRS.

 

Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to meet the AP Chief Minister Kiran Reddy during his recent trip to Delhi is a loud enough indication that in her mind the state is already divided, these rumour mills aver.

 

These mills tell us that the political leaders from the coastal area are silenced with the promise of hefty civil works contracts to build a new capital for the other residual state. The real estate boom that’s likely in the event of division in the coastal districts will mitigate the opposition from the general public, these rumours want us to believe. It seems the centre has already bought the consent of Rayalaseema leaders who matter for the division of their region, the purveyors of these rumours have come to know for sure.

 

Rumour mills have a way of ensuring that a small escape route is available in the very likely eventuality of their stories not coming true. In this case, however, the escape route actually lends some nail biting suspense to the narration.

 

Although Sonia Gandhi decided to divide the state and in this project she had the backing of Chidambaram, Azad, and Moily, the plan has formidable opposition. The decision is not going to be easy, they caution. The rumour mills want us to believe that Anthony, Digvijaya Singh, the Prime Minister, and even Rahul Gandhi are dead set against the division plan. President Pranab Babu is also not in favour of division.

 

This, therefore, is a cliff hanger. There would be a car chase, a shoot out, and a heavy pumping of adrenaline before the climax is unveiled. These rumour mills promise us.

 

In Gandhi Bhavan, in NTR Trust Building, and in TRS Bhavan, this or some variant of this is the topic of conversation. News papers run stories along these lines. TV channels busy themselves collecting talking heads to discuss this, and as the tempo of the shows build the panelists shout and get at each other’s collars to provide some serious comedy to the viewers.

 

The agenda for political discourse in Andhra Pradesh is set for at least the next ten days.

 

Serious matters of policy with far reaching and grave consequences to our Republic are thus subjected to mindless rumour mills and comic commentaries.

 

Enjoy this circus until they dish out another one. Till recently this sort of comedy was provided by the TRS chief. Now it seems it is the turn of the Congress leaders and some media outfits to entertain us and give us our daily dose of stimulants.

 

Don’t be anxious. There’s no danger to the unity of Andhra Pradesh.

 
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