By: Akshaya Mishra
It appears everyone is missing the point. The protests in Andhra Pradesh are not about Telangana, but about the occupation of political space in Seemandhra. Telangana is done and dusted. All the political players who are now leading the protests know they have been party to the central government’s decision to bifurcate the state. The deliberation on the creation of the new state has been a long-drawn process and neither the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) nor the YSR Congress nor the BJP can claim to be ignorant of what was cooking all these years. The Congress’ case is different. We shall come to that later. The protests reek of political hypocrisy and opportunism of the highest order. All these parties were carefully silent or diplomatic in their words when the supporters of Telangana were hitting the streets with regular frequency, shutting down the city of Hyderabad, offices, colleges and schools. Actually, most of them, barring the CPM, had supported the idea of the new state. Pro-Seemandhra protesters: PTI image If their feelings for united Andhra Pradesh were so intense, why didn’t they come out in the open then? Why didn’t they oppose the central government when it was going ahead with the consultation process? Didn’t they realise the implication of the bifurcation? Either they were not being hypocrites then or they are being hypocrites now. Whatever the case, all of them know clearly that the Telangana decision has been made and there won’t be a reversal. While the protests may come across as a desperate effort from political parties at unburdening the guilt, the reality lies somewhere else. It’s political. All parties on protest want a strong foothold in Seemandhra and it is not possible without raking up the united Andhra Pradesh and Telangana subjects. Whoever protests the loudest fancies a chance of winning over the public sympathy, by extending control over a majority of Seemandhra’s 176 assembly seats. The TDP’s predicament is telling indeed. It has virtually lost Telangana to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which led the separate statehood movement, and the Congress, which might gain some goodwill in the region for doing justice to the aspirations of people. The TDP is the second strongest political party in the Seemandhra region, with 54 seats from the region’s 176 in the present assembly. The Congress is the biggest party with 105 seats. While the chances of the latter getting decimated in the coming elections looks inevitable, the gainer won’t be the TDP. The YRS Congress, led by Jaganmohan Reddy who enjoys huge popularity in the Rayalaseema area, is likely to be the big beneficiary with erstwhile Congress supporters migrating to his party. This leaves Chandrababu Naidu’s party in a lose-lose situation. His repeated flip-flops over Telangana have not done his image any good. He has a lot of explaining to do to the electorate in the Seemandhra region. The YSR Congress has a similar problem in Telangana. While Jaganmohan’s father, former chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy, had a strong support network in the region, it won’t move to his son’s party because of the TRS. So he has no choice but to focus on the Seemandhra region where a huge sympathy factor works for him. Despite being a new entrant in the electoral arena, YSR Congress is already a force to reckon with in Seemandhra. Jaganmohan’s desperation to keep this region in control is understandable. He has been chargesheeted by the CBI in several cases. He needs to have a respectable number of parliamentary seats under his belt to have a say in the formation of the government at the Centre in 2014. A favourable government would help take the pain of the CBI off him. A tally of a minimum 20 out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats would put him in a safer position. Like Naidu, Jaganmohan needs to convince people that he had nothing to with the Telangana decision; hence the five-day hunger agitation. The Congress’ case is the most complex. In Telangana, it expects the support of the TRS in the coming elections. However, if the latter decides to convert itself to a full-fledged political party and fight the assembly and parliamentary elections on its own, the Congress would be nowhere. The Telangana region accounts for 17 of Andhra Pradesh’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. Now that the new state is on its way, the Seemandhra unit of the party will take the brunt of the public anger. It’s a position hard to defend. There is every likelihood of the party splitting at some point. In that case, most of the 105 assembly members would gravitate towards the YSR Congress. In times of electoral uncertainty, Jagan is a safe bet. Unless the Congress’ top leadership manages to win over Jaganmohan, the party might collapse in the state and keep the 25 parliamentary seats in the region out of the party’s reach. Thus the real reason behind the current protests is not Telangana; it is Seemandhra. All parties are in existential crisis in the region. It could make or mar their political future.
Courtesy: First Post