Monday, October 14, 2013

Chandrababu's teflon image wearing off?

Chandrababu Naidu till now successfully cultivated in the media, an image of a visionary and even a future Prime Minister. He was given the sobriquet of 'Hitech Babu' by the mainstream and powerful Andhra media, which at the same time referred to Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao' as 'Scamulaparthi', making a pun on his surname Pamulaparthi, thereby propagating that he was a master of scams. Such goebbels propaganda on the part of Andhra media houses like Eenadu worked. A great intellectual and unselfish statesman like PV Narasimha Rao is now ignored and forgotten. Chandrababu Naidu, on the other hand, was given a teflon image as a Telugu statesman and modern administrator  That is till he made his way to New Delhi for the 'indefinite fast'. After he exposed himself directly with national media first time in a decade, Brand Chandrababu is now fast unravelling. 

Chandrababu Naidu is a 2 term chief minister of State of Andhra Pradesh. So there is certain degree of credibility that is expected from his words. Not too long ago, when the Telangana agitation is at its peak, Naidu made it a point to tour the Telangana region, despite the opposition from agitators who questioned his anti-Telangana stance. While the Kiran Kumar Reddy led AP Government (which now has publicly taken an anti-Telangana stance) actively supported him with thousands of police forces, Naidu himself travelled in a convoy of hundreds of vehicles with armed men. His supporters terrorized and attacked all opposition on the convoy’s way reminiscent of the territorial invasions in medieval times while Naidu was having a series of meetings with his cadre. He repeatedly said TDP is ‘not opposed to Telangana’ and further challenged TRS, BJP and other outfits in TJAC to go to Delhi and do dharna in front of Sonia Gandhi’s house to achieve Telangana State, as Congress is the one in power to concede Telangana. TDP party men in Telangana like Yarrabelli Dayakara Rao seconded that by saying they would join TJAC constituents for a dharna in front of Sonia Gandhi’s house. What an irony now, that Naidu would sit on an ‘indefinite fast’ in Delhi precisely because Sonia Gandhi led UPA alliance conceded Telangana!

The Making of Brand Chandrababu-
It is not that people of Andhra Pradesh completely bought the media built image of Chandrababu from his ruling years. If that is the case he wouldn't have lost 2 straight elections in the state. However, when he was not busy implementing World bank's agenda on economic and industrial reforms in the State and ordering police to shoot at rallies and kill agitators, he focused on bringing IT jobs to AP. He happened to be the Chief Minister of the State when the country was riding the wave of 'Scamulaparthi's open market reforms and the resultant IT boom. Taking the beaten track of Bangalore and Chennai, its southern cousins, Hyderabad joined the IT bandwagon and opened up employment opportunities in IT and Pharma sectors. Mr Naidu went out of his way inviting investors to consider Hyderabad instead of Bangalore. The Andhra media, dominated by TDP entrepreneurs, quickly seized the moment and built a story out of it effectively saying that if not for Naidu, IT would have never come to India. Whereas the fact of the matter was that Hyderabad was not even in the top 4 IT destinations during Naidu's tenure and that Bangalore was way ahead as a pioneer in attracting IT companies by the time Naidu came in. But the PR exercise worked in fixing Naidu's image problem then which was result of all the public thamasha people have seen while Naidu was overthrowing NTR out of power and party. And of course the image building worked with an entire generation of youth employed in IT who still believe they owe their career, and some, even their life, to Mr. Naidu's initiative! 
The national media too joined the PR party when Naidu became convener of the United Front in the center (1996-98) and a key player in NDA (1998-2004). That was enough time for building a teflon image.

The unmaking of Brand Chandrababu -
Time and again TDP declared they are not opposing Telangana and to support that assertion, they gave multiple letters to Union Government and the committees it constituted. Soon after July 30 CWC resolution, Mr Naidu accepted it and demanded the central government to earmark Rs 5,00,000 Crore for Andhra's new capital! Even as he made that statement, his party men started making noise about how Congress conspired to break up Telugus in Andhra Pradesh by demerging Telangana from Andhra. They held up parliament sessions with their slogans and supported bandhs in Andhra region. Now when national media gathers around him in Delhi and asks about his stance on Telangana - whether to go ahead with creation of the State or not, he glibly avoids answering it and equates deciding on that would be equal to choosing between own children, which no parent can do. Once, he would say TDP's earlier support to Telangana was conditional and the next moment he would say no, thats not the case. He accuses Congress of 'playing politics' with the issue till the interviewer Karan Thapar, reminds him 'political parties are for playing politics'. He would not commit on how long he will fast nor will he say what will make him withdraw his fast! He asks central government to invite all JACs from Andhra and Telangana for talks 'to sort out issues'. The TJAC volunteers were the ones who were beaten to pulp by his henchmen when he toured Telangana as discussed above. It is amazing he is rolling out a red carpet for them now. But then they would 'Thanks, but no Thanks'. For, it is toTJAC, like going on a blind date with the same girl they are about to marry the next day, after years of courtship! When he mentions there are many issues like waters and revenue sharing to be discussed, Karan Thapar reminds him the GoM is setup for the same purpose! Clueless Naidu has no way to justify his fast and the noises of injustice he was making. Karan Thapar asks him whether he is doing the whole exercise for his political future in Andhra or for delaying Telangana. Naidu then complains the Congress and whole national media is counter-attacking him on the issue. The whole episode put  Babu in a very bad light and surely made national media review their perception of him as a modern day politician and administrator. The teflon image is wearing off and an indecisive and insecure politician is revealed on national TV. Things that were too obvious to only people of AP till now are now national knowledge, and even international, going by this tweet of the reputed UK newspaper 'The Independent'.

Instead of going to Delhi and daring the UPA chairperson in Italian, Naidu would have done lots of good for Telugus and his own party by staying in Hyderabad and spelling his stand clearly in Telugu! Instead of struggling in English by repeatedly saying 'What I am saying..', he should ask himself as to whether his words are saying anything at all. By the way, neither indecisiveness nor lack of language skills are the 'assets' of Ex-PM 'Scamulaparthi' Narasimha Rao. Nothing characterizes decisiveness in modern Indian history more than PV's steadfast support and backing of his finance minister Manmohan Singh's economic reforms in 1990s. Just imagine how many U-Turns and P-turns souls like Naidu would have taken if he were in PV's shoes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Telangana 28: Telangana still awaiting its liberation

Irrespective of the whatever agendas the Congressmen, Communists had in their fight against the Nizam in Nizam's dominion and in the subsequent Hyderabad State, the path Telangana took since the liberation is unfailingly that of a colony. For decades now, in face of such utter regard to the aspirations of the people of Telangana, it is time the truth has to be spoken unambiguously and treated as such. 

Over the decades, the protagonists of Telangana movement maintained that their fight is against the Andhra plutocrats and not against the commoners in Andhra. Some even went ahead and said that the commoners in Andhra would not care if the State is de-merged. The events of the last 50 days must have made them wonder if there are any commoners left in Andhra! The few intellectual voices from Andhra which empathized with the the just cause of Telangana have been drowned in the orchestrated cacophony in the name of Samaikyandhra agitation. The Govt employees, businessmen of Andhra for their vested interests are doing their bit in the drama.  It needs more than a sense of justice and fair play in them to take Telangana agitation in its present sugarcoated words seriously. That is why truth, not diplomacy matter now. That is why I see a ray of hope when Prof. Kodandram says TJAC wont accept Hyderabad as a joint capital. And that is what the ruling Congressmen from Telangana should be saying and acting upon. The message the Andhras should get is that Telanganas wont flinch for their unscrupulous behavior. That Telangana wont again, surrender.

When visiting the AP Bhavan in Delhi, I am sure every person from Telangana would wonder, as to why he/she is welcomed by the statue of first Andhra Chief Minister Prakasam's. Ideally, Burgula's statue too should have been there, that is if the merger between Andhra and Telangana were that of equals. It is not and the Andhras were always clear about it, that it was not a merger but an acquisition! So they put up the statue of their first Chief Minister. Also, they keep harping on Potti Sriramulu as the 'father' of AP, knowing all too well the history of Andhra and AP. And Telangana's activists rather naively keep telling them history lessons, repeatedly. The fact is that Andhras think AP is just a continuation of Andhra state that Potti Sriramulu is associated with, with a few districts added to it, just like Maharashtra and Karnataka added a few from Hyderabad State! Andhra State occupied Telangana and they seriously think they replaced the Nizam and his elite as the new age rulers and act in the same vein. Did we not see leader after leader berating Sonia Gandhi on how she is tearing down the Andhra empire her mother-in-law helped Andhras continue to rule despite the 1969 uprising? That is how Andhras see it, like a property matter between them and Delhi rulers! Andhras are the regional satraps given charge over the Telangana subjects by Delhi rulers! In this whole debate, Telangana's own voice does not figure anywhere. 

And the Telangana politicians have been mincing words calling a spade a spade, burdened by what they think is propriety. When a particular senior Telugu actor settled in Hyderabad enacted a real life drama in front of media sometime ago in a dispute with TRS partymen, he remarked 'Hyderabad was the city of Muslims before the Andhras arrived here and that if they (Andhras) are forced out of state, they would hand it over back to Muslims and go!' Now, how clearer can it get?

Meek challenge to these claims all these years, to some extent, is understandable, with the tyranny of majority the Andhras have handy, in the legislature and their successful Andhra-Seema collaboration. But I believe this situation Telangana politicians (especially in Congress and TDP with Andhra leadership in the state) have been in, will change if they seize the opportunity provided by the CWC resolution to assert the Telangana identity. One such way is to immediately demand for demerging the PCC making Telangana politicians independent of pulls and pressures of Andhra leaders, especially in granting tickets during election. That would also cut down the chances Andhras have to do horse-trading with Telangana legislators, especially from Hyderabad, in the event of a dispute over Hyderabad in future.

The bottom-line is that Telangana has to be assertive NOW and reclaim its freedom to really get liberated. Sept 17 every year is a reminder for that and more so this year with the direct challenge being mounted onto Hyderabad. There is nothing to be expected from TDP on this front and TRS has its own limitations in Delhi. It is up to the Congressmen to stand up and take the colonial rulers head-on and push for the continuation of the process triggered with CWC resolution. The duty of handling the Andhra political rulers who are obese with accumulated power, right from the days of Madras presidency, rests clearly on the shoulders of Telangana Congressmen. 

India has long stopped working based on its ideals. The ruthless ruling elite in Delhi is not cowed down by agitations. Only pragmatism during some windows of opportunity, like the CWC resolution (or the BJP's political necessity for MPs in south) supported by the agitations and logical argument would get things done. That is how Andhra rulers sustained their rule all these years and that is what they are banking on even now. It is time leadership of Telangana learn and tackle them.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Telangana 27: How statehood for Telangana already made a difference!

As the Congress finally decided to take the parachute to escape the plunge into a political oblivion in Telangana and announce the state today, a multitude of feelings swept over me. The statehood is a historic victory of a genuine people’s movement, a rarity in modern India. I am proud to be associated with it. It is probably one of the largest ever non-violent mass movements in the world. This has been a life changing experience for people like me who have been highly involved in the movement for last few years. After witnessing the massive state repression, especially since the Dec 9 statement, this is a kind of closure to a churning part in me that was engaging with continuous thoughts about democracy, politics, media and most importantly mass people’s movements, in the Indian context.

People of Telangana had to brave a formidable opposition and win over it to fulfill their long held wish. Chapter 8 saga from Justice Srikrishna’s report showed all too well how the opposition was manipulating all institutions we rely upon in a democracy – executive, police, judiciary, media and political parties.  Yet, the common man of Telangana persisted and showed time and again (in the elections too) that they would punish the parties that opposed statehood, without fail. Thanks to TJAC and the TRS, it is their long-drawn out agitation that they could sustain that ultimately cornered the UPA government into conceding the state.

At this moment, I can’t help but think how ideologues like Late Acharya Jayashankar and Late Prof. Biyyala Janardhan Rao so selflessly passed on this spirit to fight for Telangana, to this generation.  They serve as inspiration to all the millions of Telanganites who are determined to make a better future for them in the new state. They serve as reminders of what the present generation of Telanganites owe to next generation.  I already see many of the young agitators forming groups and enthusiastically do their bit in rural Telangana in education, drinking water etc. It is this spirit of active public participation that would make Telangana a better state.

By clinching the statehood, Telanganites proved they can force their public representatives to listen to them, even if it meant they had to come onto the streets. While there are no stalwarts among their MLAs and MPs, it is their collective and persistent pressure that forced their politicians, especially from Congress, to fight unitedly for statehood and outmaneuver their much powerful Seemandhra counterparts. Telanganites have united across caste and religion to achieve this. This offered a glimmer of hope that even as electorate in the new state, they would exercise their franchise rising above those divisions.

Finally, in all the churn and turn of last 4 years, most of the Telanganites have become more aware of the politics and its many shapes – the deceit, the opportunism and learned the patience required in dealing with it. Time and again, the Government and parties with their actions, shown them hope that there demand would be considered, only to be disappointed. As and when they planned an event in the agitation, the government used brute force to suppress and harass them. Sakala Janula Samme, the momentous and defining event of this agitation percolated the aspiration and angst of this agitation into each and every home in Telangana. No wonder, the Congress caved in; instead of daring this angst hit them at the ballot. All these factors taught patience to Telanganites and they would need loads of it to see positive changes in the new state.

While the delay and suppression of Telangana movement after December 9, 2009 in forming the state has caused unspeakable suffering to the moral fabric of Telangana and resulted in hundreds of deaths of youth, it did make a whole new generation wiser, mature and ready to be active participants in the new state.  Professor Jayashankar used to say that while Telanganites campaign for the cause, they would face questions from 2 kinds of people. The first kind are genuinely innocent and ignorant of the grievances of the cause. The second kind are the chauvinists who do know the truth. The amiable professor thought irrespective of the kind of people asking, the onus lies with the agitators to patiently listen and answer. This is what scores of committed activists have been doing in last few years, being patient and responsible. I myself have been fortunate to meet and collaborate with many such activists, in turn making lasting friendships. On the other hand, a few of my Andhra friends distanced themselves from me due to my open stand. So the Telangana movement truly has been life altering. So when a curious North Indian friend asked me ‘How does a new state matter’? (As I was receiving congratulatory calls from Telanganites when news poured in today from New Delhi), I couldn't help but think it already mattered, even before inauguration!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Telangana 26: How Hyderabad was handed over to Andhra State!

Photo: Make-shift tents in Kurnool town – capital city of erstwhile Andhra state

As the Centre’s self-imposed deadline to arrive at a discussion on Telangana is fast approaching, there is heightened lobbying in Delhi on the impending decision and the contours of it. An experience with recent events and a look at our history shows how backroom deals influence these decisions and the consequences of these. In light of the debate over Capital city, it is all the more relevant to go back in history and see how a protagonist in one such backroom deals operated and engineered the coup, that ironically, resulted in the present mess in Telangana.

Rajaji was one of the most respected statesmen of this country. He was the chief minister of Madras state when the Andhra state was carved out of it. What is public knowledge is that he not only vociferously opposed the Andhras’ claim over Madras as their capital but also did not accept their request to make Madras as a temporary capital while they make a transition to their new capital within Andhra. However, some lesser known facts mentioned in his biography ‘I meet Rajaji’ by Monica Felton shows the covert deal made on this historic moment. These details were written about by Shri Gautam Pingle sometime back and this should serve as cautionary tale for Telangana agitators who are na├»ve enough to trust the Congress or other political parties in making a just and rational solution for Telangana’s statehood and its capital.

Sometime after the merger of Hyderabad state and Andhra state in 1956, Monica Felton who wrote Rajaji’s biography: ’I meet Rajaji’ was in Hyderabad when Rajaji arrived there and had met with Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao, who was the first Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. Mr. Rao was a close confidante of Rajaji for many years and also served in various positions in Rajaji’s cabinet in erstwhile Madras state (He was also President of Vishalandra Maha Sabha and Vice- President of the Andhra Provincial Congress Party by the time the erstwhile Andhra state was inaugurated in October 1953). He invited Rajaji to tea with a small set of friends, including Dr. Jayasuriya and Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Ms. Felton mentions in her book that Rajaji began to talk about the disputes over separation of Andhra from Madras State and the then demand for the inclusion of Madras City in Andhra. Monica Felton describes the conversation as below.

He (Rajaji) said: “You were determined to have Madras”.

They laughed “Indeed, yes”, somebody chuckled. “But you gave up the idea at once”, Rajaji said, “when I offered you Hyderabad as your capital”. “Ah, yes”, said another, “we never thought of that possibility”. (Rajaji said) “No that was a real surprise, wasn’t it?

It is clear from the excerpt above that even while Hyderabad was operating as a separate state from 1948, influential Andhra leaders bargained and got a deal from Rajaji, the towering figure in INC, that they would have Hyderabad city as their capital if they stop claiming Madras. This also confirms what Rayalaseema leaders like MV Ramana Reddy have been repeatedly saying - That making Kurnool as capital of Andhra was just posturing and was never a serious attempt in building a new capital for Andhra. The Andhras were playing a waiting game from the tents of Kurnool for the dismantling of Hyderabad state and formation of so-called ‘Visalandhra’ with Hyderabad as its capital. Hyderabad politicians like Chief Minister Burgula Ramakrishna Rao were just collateral damage and had to just make way for the more influential Andhra congress leaders. So out went the Fazal Ali’s 1st SRC recommendation on letting Telangana survive as a separate state. Hyderabad state has been merged with Andhra and Andhras gain control of it's capital . And the rest we know is history.

Today, In case of demerger, while it is next to impossible to make Hyderabad a union territory, any talk about Hyderabad being made a joint capital or one with ‘special status’, should be taken with a pinch of salt. They would just form an excuse for another coup for the Andhra plutocrats to perpetuate their control over Hyderabad.