By: Ashok Tankasala
Here are three arguments on why the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) should not merge with the Congress party, even if the Congress concedes the new State. The arguments against the merger are: (1) as and when Telangana State is formed, the region needs to have its very own political party. (2) If that party comes to power that is fine. Even if it fails in that bid, the Opposition space should be occupied by a Telangana party and not others. (3) All this is necessary for the sake of strengthening federalism in the country.
Telangana has its own distinct identity. A region and its people with such an identity need to have their own political organization. It should exclusively represent the region and its interests. Such interests should be its paramount agenda. That is theoretically and practically possible to only a ‘Telangana specific’ party. The region cannot afford to depend on other parties which have their larger agendas. If one has complaints against the TRS, it is fine. But that is the only available platform presently. If a better outfit comes into existence tomorrow, or if the TRS fails to meet the expectations of people they may throw it out. In any case, it has to be a ‘Telangana specific’ party.
Not that we reject the very concept of ‘national parties’, or because we are taking a fundamentalist position of regionalism. We do so because our national parties have failed to take care of the interests of different regions in the country. Equitable development of all regions with objective bias towards backward regions was the idea during the freedom movement and immediately after Independence but all that got diluted within no time. The Constitution incorporates several federalist features but the rulers in Delhi have gradually moved towards centralization of economic and political powers, regionalism in the country from 1970s-1980s being a consequence of that. Four decades have passed, but the centralizing forces have not learnt their lessons. And both the trends continue be on. We need to look at the issues of Telangana and TRS in this backdrop.
It is due to this situation that Telangana needs to have its own ‘party of the soil’. This does not mean that the TRS is a perfect regional party. Considering the socio-economic conditions of the region, particularly the composition of its society, its history, struggles, and sacrifices for long periods, we find the TRS wanting in many respects. The society of this region may produce a better party some day if the TRS fails to evolve itself as per the needs and aspirations of the people. But, at the moment, none else can meet the definition of a ‘Telangana party’. Hence, it has got to exist without dissolving itself into Congress or any other party.
In case Telangana State becomes a reality, it is always desirable for the TRS (or any ‘Telangana-specific’ party) to come to power. Had the Congress not failed in its federalist duties, this situation would not have arisen. If that does not happen, who will occupy the Opposition space? It should be a Telangana party. Actually, that is in the long-term interest of the Congress also. For the sake of short-term gains now it may take a short-sighted view demanding the TRS to merge with it. The Congress is not sure of its prospects in the region. Thus it hopes to bag enough seats if the TRS joins it. That may happen, but it is not known if it has thought of what may happen to the Opposition space.
With the dissolution of the TRS, it could be the TDP or the BJP. Would they be comfortable with such a situation? Can anyone guarantee that the Congress, after the merger of the TRS, will really become so strong that it will be at the helm forever? That is an illusion. In case they fail to give good administration to people and continue to indulge in corruption, it will be of no use even if a hundred TRS parties merge with it. People will reject them nevertheless. It is, therefore, good for the Congress to let the TRS be where it is, take its help in government formation in case it falls short of majority, or vice versa; let it either come to power by cooperating with it, or be the principal Opposition party, not letting the TDP or the BJP do that. This will be a better realpolitik option for Telangana people also.
Requirement of a politico-economic and social federalist arrangement is inherent in the very geographical and cultural diversity of our country. If that is not respected, this vast land will become ungovernable. Actually it is believed by an increasingly growing school of political thought that the real strength and development of India lies in a healthy growth of federalism.
Unfortunately, the Congress leadership experienced the perils of ignoring this over the decades; yet, like the proverbial French Bourbons, they forgot nothing and learnt nothing. As a result, by now the tendency of federalism has come to be an established trend, delivering blow after blow to the Congress. It is a part of the polity and can’t be wished away, howsoever the forces of centralization may wish for it. Amidst these historical realities, to represent Telangana and serve its interests, it is essential that there exists and prospers a ‘Telangana specific’ party.
[Courtesy: The Hans India]