Peerless Leader…Fearless Fighter
(Original article in Telugu by Tigulla Krishna Murthy
Free Translation into English by Madhav Mudumbai)
Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan! There cannot be a better example than the debate and the consequent politicisation of the question as to whom to be credited with the Telangana State formation. It is not for nothing that the debate is being stoked three years after Telangana formation and two years ahead of the general elections in 2019. The intent behind the statement, ‘State formation is a result of collective effort’, is not to recognise the contribution of the agitators but to rob KCR off of the due respect. It is to undermine him! It is to debilitate his stature from that of an unparalleled leader to ‘one of the many participants’! But history will be kinder to KCR! History cannot be erased just as easily as tearing off of pages of a book. Those ailing from short-term memory loss may have conveniently forgot it, but the same will be etched in the memory of three and half crore Telangana populace for long times to come!
Telangana movement has a distinct character when compared to other identity movements across the world. It was not ignited by a stray incident or an isolated issue! It is the reaction of people who endured countless agonies and sufferings. In fact, the demand for separation predates its merger with Andhra State! People from all walks of life saw a solution to their problems in Telangana formation. However, it had been a movement sans a strong leader, sans a clear direction! It acquired sanctity once KCR took over the reins! It was clear to anyone with an unbiased vision!
Starting the day of merger with Andhra State to form Andhra Pradesh, several attempts were made for the demerger of Telangana region. After the heroic 1969 ‘Jai Telangana’ movement concluded on an unsuccessful note, a sense of despair descended on the agitators. At the same time, efforts to wipe out the distinct identity of Telangana were intensified. People of Telangana, barring a few, started to resign themselves to their fate! However, the agitators got a new lease of life when Deve Gouda Government took a favourable stand towards smaller States.
The new-found hope further strengthened with the creation of Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh States by Vajpayee Government. Prof. Jayashankar, Socialist leader Keshavarao Jadhav resumed the debate and the likes of Innaiah, Gaddar, Maroju Veeranna spread the idea and ideals behind the Telangana Statehood demand. Telangana Jana Sabha, Telangana Maha Sabha were formed and the crowds they drew surprised the powers that be at the time. But, the demand for Telangana State was considered to be the result of handiwork by left-wing intellectuals. The declarations that Democratic Telangana was their goal and parliamentary form of democracy was not acceptable to them resulted in the branding of the movement as Naxalite, separatist one. Participation of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik in one of the Jana Sabha meetings only gave more ammunition to the propaganda. This lack of foresight and political misjudging resulted in the Government dealing the movement with an iron hand labelling it as an extremist and separatist demand. Precious lives were lost in the process. Stoic silence gripped Telangana once again. People like Indra Reddy, for a brief period, embraced Telangana demand only to be silenced with some personal favours.
KCR entered the scene in those difficult times. If Prof Jayashankar was the first intellectual to study, analyse and theorise Telangana demand in its entirety, KCR was the first political leader to comprehend it and own it up in toto. KCR, through his diligence, could clear the fears and doubts that existed in the minds of people. ‘It’s State fight and not a street fight, and the separate State can only be achieved through winning elections and legislative seats,’ declared KCR. His statements that the movement would be a peaceful one without any destruction reassured Telanganites, to some extent even the Seemandhraites. By relinquishing power and posts, KCR could earn the trust of people who were at the time vexed with politicians taking cover under the Telangana movement to promote their vested interests. Through massive public meetings and rallies and through his unmatched and impeccable oratorical skills, KCR could instil confidence among people that Telangana movement will eventually succeed. By adopting non-violent forms of protest KCR ensured there was no repression from the state. People freely joined the movement.
There was an awakening, a sense of freedom to question. Intellectuals, poets, artists joined hands with KCR. Civil society organisations, leftist groups followed. KCR and the movement have attained credibility by going beyond the fights on sectoral issues and announcing that achieving Telangana State as the ultimate goal. By respecting intellectuals like Prof Jayashankar through his words and deeds, KCR won respectability to the movement too. Prof Jayashankar introduced Prof Kodandaram, then working for Telangana United Forum, to KCR. People from different streams of thought cutting across religion, community and class converged to form one single formidable force under KCR.
By regularly going for by-elections, KCR put the strategy of expressing public mood through ‘votes and seats’ to test. Protest programmes were designed and implemented for people to participate freely thereby ensuring their success. Agitation forms of ‘Vanta-Varpu’ (cooking on the roads in the open), blockades of roadways, celebrations of Bathukamma and Telangana cuisines etc created a festive mood in the movement.
KCR’s pressure-building tactics forced the mainstream political parties to respond to Telangana issue. Parties that were dragging their feet on the issue had to discuss it in their internal meetings. Media houses too had to give space for it. KCR created a political climate in which it became inevitable for parties that issued diktats to not utter Telangana word in public fora to openly discuss it and eventually to support Telangana Statehood. From ‘Telangana movement for achieving power’ to ‘power to achieve Telangana’ – such was the transformation in the political discourse! Leveraging the access he got to high offices as an MP and a cabinet Minister, KCR could mould the opinion of national political parties in favour of separate Telangana. Prof Jayashankar constantly provided the assistance. With the mention of Telangana Statehood demand by the President of India and Prime Minister in Parliament, the agitators started believing that Telangana will be a reality soon and KCR will deliver it. Telangana leaders in other political parties also joined the chorus.
KCR had proposed the name of Kodandaram as Chairman of JAC, as he emerged the most acceptable candidate in the then prevailing political situation. KCR lead the movement from the front and Telangana State was formed. Once the goal of Statehood was achieved, the categorisation of ‘supporters’ and ‘opponents’ became meaningless. KCR welcomed fellow agitators, partners in the movement, leaders from rival political parties and his erstwhile adversaries alike with open arms. Made them part in the administration of the State. Strangely, people who refused to take up the challenge of politics have started issuing diktats on how to administer the State.
The political strategy KCR devised to attain Telangana Statehood was solely his brainchild. It was a path not treaded by any politician before! It’s unprecedented in the sense that unlike the earlier Telangana agitations, solution was sought within the system – within the constitutional framework. KCR made electoral politics the axle around which the whole movement revolved. The approach was based on the practical understanding that Telangana Statehood could be realised only through a bill passed by the Parliament and elections are the only means to attract the apex legislative body’s attention.
The argument that KCR too played his part just as many others in attaining Telangana State is a veiled attempt to deny him the credit he truely deserves. It’s true that Telangana is a result of a collective effort of masses. But who ignited them? Who instilled in them the courage to fight? It is KCR who had been the driving force behind common men and women, old and young cutting across community, class, religion, political parties, to join the movement. It is the firm belief of people in KCR that made the movement to sustain. Several leaders before KCR took up the gauntlet but fled the battlefield midway. Had KCR left it unfinished, there wouldn’t have been any chance for movement to survive or resurrect.
What prevents one to accept the fact that Telangana movement reached its goal under the leadership of KCR, when the same political science professors have no qualms in teaching students that Lenin led Russian Revolution and Mao Zedong the Chinese Revolution to success?
People may interpret history as per their prejudices, but KCR’s name and contribution will forever be etched in golden letters in the annals of Telangana history!