Time for Telangana

By Zakka  Jacob in India Today:
Crowds at political rallies are a very interesting phenomena. Often times, these crowds give you a better insight into politics than any politician can offer. Mostly, crowds at political rallies are paid for. The going rate usually is 500 rupees, one packet of chicken biryani and one pouwa of desi liquor. But very rarely you come across a political crowd that has come out in support of a genuine cause.
The crowd which turned up at Indira Park in Hyderabad, the day the Srikrishna Committee report was made public, was one such. In it, were people who had come all the way from Adilabad and Nizamabad, some of them by foot. The rally itself was organised by a host of political parties, not just the TRS. There were leaders from the BJP, Left Parties, TDP and even Maoist leader-balladeer Gadar. All for one cause. Telangana.
They say, no force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. Telangana is one such idea, and its time has come.
The movement for Telangana is not one orchestrated by the TRS. It’s a genuine people’s movement. Lawyers, students, government clerks, journalists, every imaginable working group in Telangana supports the demand. There’s now even a separate news channel that caters only to Telangana, called Raj News. (Incidentally, Raj News was blacked out for a few hours last Friday because they showed some pictures of the violence that occurred at Osmania University). Some Congress MPs who met with Sonia Gandhi, a day after the report came out, are still staying put in Hyderabad shuddering to go back to their constituencies.
There was one thing I was repeatedly asked by locals in Hyderabad. It was about the 6th option suggested by the Srikrishna committee, one which the committee itself branded ‘the best option’. “Why does the committee think giving us more powers or more autonomy is the best solution? We don’t want to secede from the Union of India. We are not like the Kashmiris who are asking for autonomy. We only want a separate state. Is that too much to ask for?” I had no answer.
There’s only one reason why the Congress is reluctant to grant a separate state. To guard its own political turf. Andhra Pradesh is critical to the Grand Old party. Both in 2004 and in 2009, Andhra returned the maximum number of Congress MPs to Parliament. The Congress wants a repeat in 2014, when it hopes to anoint Rahul Gandhi, as the nation’s ‘Chosen One’.
But here’s why the Congress’ strategy is so badly flawed. If they don’t give Telangana, they’ll be wiped out. If they do give it, all the credit (and, the votes) will be taken away by the TRS. Already, in the rest of Andhra, the Congress is battling the Jagan juggernaut. Either way, the Congress is stuck between the devil and the deep sea.
There comes a time when every politician needs to demonstrate statesmanship. Vajpayee showed that when he took the bus to Lahore to extend the hand of friendship to Pakistan. Sonia Gandhi showed it when she heeded her inner voice and declined Prime Ministership. Time to do that again, Mrs Gandhi.

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