The Troubled Birth Of Telangana The mere announcement has sprouted 20 demands for statehoods. And nationalism is the biggest casualty
Its been like poking a huge bees’ nest. The birth of the 29th State, Telangana, which one feels is a pre-mature one, has led to, at a rough estimate 20 more demands in threatening tones for separate States. This foretells of troubled times ahead. The Gorkhas, Bodos and Karbis who earlier accepted autonomous councils have now demanded statehoods. The trepidation as to what creation of Telangana would lead to, has become apparent. The Nagas have raised their ante and now have demanded sovereignty, a dangerous way of thinking. What if later most separated states start demanding or declaring themselves sovereign? The very thought is frightening.
The incision of the Body India in over 20 places! The smaller states to begin with would be dependent on the centre, leading to more centralised and unitary system, instead of the federal structure as envisioned in the Constitution. We have the example of Yugoslavia, where its six states started entering pacts with foreign countries and then unable to meet their commitments burdened Belgrade with huge debts.
But before such eventualities develop and other states come into being, the issue of Telangana becoming formally a state has to be finalised. In the very beginning one said the 29th state was born prematurely. This is because before it legally becomes a state, a resolution has to be introduced and passed in Parliament. Then a resolution would have to be passed in the A.P. Assembly.
The resolution would not be introduced in the present session or winter one because of the internal turmoil in the Congress party. The mood of ministers and MPs from Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema is so rebellious that the party cannot dare introduce it in the near future. Four ministers at the centre from these two regions and about 9 MPs and 40 MLAs threatened to resign. This would bring the UPA government down, if any of the two, SP or BSP decide to not support the UPA. The party thus cannot dare introduce the resolution accepting the carving of Telangana from the rest of Andhra and vesting it with statehood.
The earliest that the resolution could be moved, say party’s strategists, is the Budget session next year. But then the general election would be round the corner and the government might avoid causing vertical split over the issue. So when the resolution would be introduced and passed is as a matter of fact unknown. The Congress had declared the birth of the 29th state purely because of electoral considerations.. The party knows that it could be nearly wiped out in the Coastal and Rayalseema regions. This means that without wins in these two regions, the return of the Congress and the UPA it is leading, to power in Delhi is virtually ruled out.
The Congress hoped that by announcing statehood of Telangana, its merger as per agreement with K. Chandrasekhar Rao, chief of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) with the TRS would help it secure around 12 out of 17 seats in the region. But Rao is no easy customer. Insiders say he is looking to secure his and his children’s future before merging. This means the Congress’s hope of salvaging 12 out of 42 seats in the united Andrha is dashed.
Telangana issue could hang for an indefinite period. Which brings the question would it ever become a state. The BJP is all in favour of Telangana. But a new dispensation in Delhi could give primacy to the danger to the unity and security of the country because of the demand for 20 more states, in the wake of Telangana becoming a state.
The midnight gift of Telangana state announced by P. Chidambaram and then no sign of the gift stoked fires in the region. It created a piquant situation for the Congress party. And it just failed to handle the situation. It could be done but except sending some emissaries who did not know the sentiments and desires of the people resolved nothing. The Congress had the example of how the Gorkhaland issue was resolved by the late Inderjit, MP, and later by Mamata Banerjee. Also when Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were created there was no fall-out. It was handled by mature people with the centre constantly supervising. How was Telangana handled? Light-weight emissaries with scant knowledge of the issue and who did not have any connect with the people spoiled the situation further.
But when it dawned on the Congress mandarins that the party was likely to lose most parliamentary seats because of the division, intense deliberations followed resulting in the decision that Telangana be created and Rao made to agree to merge TRS with the Congress. In that case, the party could get up to 12 out of 17 seats in the Telangana region. Some salvage act!
But in the anxiety to ensure better electoral prospects the Congress strategists neither worked out the details of carving out Telangana from the whole of Andhra Pradesh nor any thought given to the likely fall-out of the creation of Telangana. No wonder the final declaration of the statehood is itself in jeopardy.
Now its like letting the genie out of the bottle. While Telangana formally getting statehood is stalled bushfires have started in Assam and in the Darjeeling region for which the demand is for Gorkhaland with full statehood. Bandh and strikes with cases of violence have disrupted normal life in the two regions. In other parts the demands are yet in peaceful manner. But for how long?
There is now an air of uncertainty. There is trepidation as to what the ultimate declaration of statehood for Telangana would lead to. In short term the expectation that it would benefit the Congress in electoral terms has been belied too.
Yet the cascading effect of happenings in Andhra has already caused tremors in Delhi and in Assam and West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee is livid at the centre reigniting the Gorkhaland issue, the settling of which was her first act as chief minister.
But the demands for statehoods would not die down. The nation’s top leaders, cutting across party lines, have now come out in support of smaller states, especially with regard to Uttar Pradesh, even as numerous splinter groups announced fresh series of agitations. The fact is that old wounds have opened and they are bleeding again. Across the country leaders of various separatist movements have come out of hibernation and given notices.
The first to welcome the Telangana decision, BSP chief Mayawati reiterated her demand for dividing Uttar Pradesh into four parts. Other leaders like BJP’s Uma Bharti, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and UPA ally RLD’s leader Jayant Chowdhury too favoured reorganisation of the largest electoral state. Mayawati reminded the centre that her government had already passed a resolution in the UP assembly for carving out Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Pashchimanchal. BJP vice president Uma Bharti, demanding a States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) to take a holistic approach towards such demands, said top priority should be given to Bundelkhand.
The RLD wants Harit Pradesh to be carved out of UP. Jayant Chaudhary, an RLD MP and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh’s son, said: “The Telangana statehood is an inspiration for us.” union heavy industries minister and NCP leader Praful Patel came out in support of a separate Vidharbha state while Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar maintained that smaller states led to better governance. Congress Working Committee member Vilas Muttemwar has also written to party chief Sonia Gandhi for a Vidarbha state.
What could happen when initially demands for over six new States gathers momentum. The worst is the demand by Nagas for sovereignty. What if finally seven or eight new states declare themselves! The thought is so frightening. India would be history. But such developments are most unlikely. The centre is strong enough to quell such developments. But the centre in the process would gather more power, and one might see a unitary system than the federal.
More crucially in the bedlam, it has not occurred to either leaders of political parties nor social activists that the nationalism, the feeling and pride in being an Indian, has been lost in the clamour for more states. The Gorkhaland, four states in UP, Bodoland, Vidharba separated from Maharashtra are all based on parochialism and narrow region-alism. The nationalism is lost in such confusion.
Contrast it with America. I read an article in People magazine while flying from New York to Los Angeles. The article described how different are people in one state from those in other states. In Kentucky, for instance, people dress differently, eat different dishes, have their own folk lore and songs, and speak with a different pronunciation than say New York State or Georgia or Texas states. Likewise all states and their people are different in their lifestyles and culture.
Yet the article said when these people go out of the country they proudly call themselves Americans. We do too call ourselves Indians but with a rider, “I am from South”, “I am from the Punjab” and such like.
The government, whichever comes after the general election, would do well to focus on this aspect and instil the pride of nationalism. The incisions in the “Body India” can wait. Who knows, Telangana might turn-out to be still-born.
By Vijay Dutt