Now that polls to five state assemblies are over, the issue of a separate state of Telangana is hotting up again. Restive Congress MPs and MLAs from the region are once again lobbying with the central government to initiate the process of granting statehood to Telangana. The Congress high command dispatched AICC general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad to Hyderabad to evolve a way forward.
Madhu Goud Yaskhi, a Congress MP from the Telangana region, is an avowed advocate of a separate state. The NRI-lawyer-turned-politician who won a second term in 2009 from Nizamabad, spoke to Neerja Chowdhury candidly on where matters stood and what could be the way forward.
What is the update on the Telangana situation? You, Congress MPs and MLAs, were told by (Union finance minister) Pranab Mukherjee to wait till the assembly elections were over. What now?
The approach adopted by the home ministry is to delay the decision-making process so that the movement subsides and emotions come down.
This is the methodology recommended in Chapter 8 of the Srikrishna report, which has not been disclosed, though it has been submitted. The court ordered (the government) to make it public. The judge went into it. It talks about how to manage the media, MPs, the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti. It is a most unconstitutional for a committee headed by a former judge to advise the government to adopt undemocratic ways to suppress a public movement.
It also says that if you grant Telangana, Hyderabad will become an Inter Services Intelligence 'adda'.
How can a public report have a chapter that has been kept a secret?
That is exactly it.
If the court has directed that the chapter be made public, then why has it not been done?
They have not done it yet. The government is trying to go in appeal.
It seems that the Centre has got feedback from Andhra about the adverse impact of granting a separate state of Telangana
The governor's office in Hyderabad, the state police chief and the central intelligence agencies are all feeding the Centre with falsified and fabricated data, saying that the movement has come down and that by delaying the process, it will fizzle out. They now think that by appointing a deputy chief minister from Telangana, and various other sops, this problem can be resolved -- all of which is 100 percent incorrect.
The ground reality is that exams have been going on in the state. MPs from Telangana, after meeting with Pranab Mukherjee, conveyed to people that the Centre will take a decision after the assembly elections. The Joint Action Committee spearheading the movement agreed to postpone the agitation till end May, and this included the TRS. Because of these reasons, there has been a lull.
When you talk to people, they tell us to wait only till June 1 and if nothing happens by then, we MPs and MLAs should resign. Or, they say, don't come to your constituencies. They are gearing up to intensify the movement.
It is now being said in Congress circles, that if Telangana is granted, it will give a fillip to the movement for a separate Gorkhaland and create problems for ally Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal?
This is only an excuse. If Telangana is not given, will it halt the movement for Gorkhaland?
In recent elections, whether in West Bengal or in Assam, a separate state of Gorkhaland or Bodoland were not electoral issues. Nor did they determine the formation of the government. Telangana was a hotly debated issue before the polls and each party had to spell out its stand. Its impact on other states is meaningless. It has to be looked at separately.
Recently, at the party meet in Varanasi, the UP unit of the party resolved that UP should be split into three and that a second states reorganisation commission should be set up, and all this took place in the presence of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. What bearing does this have on Telangana?
(Union home minister) P Chidambaram has said that there is no change in the Congress policy on Telangana and that a meeting with eight parties from Andhra Pradesh is going to be convened very soon.
Soon after the assembly elections, the central government sent Azad to Andhra Pradesh to talk to everyone concerned. What emerged from that visit?
We met Azad when he came to Hyderabad. When we went to meet him, we saw MPs from Andhra (the rest of the state) sitting with him. We told him we wanted to meet him alone, not with the others. All our previous meetings were held separately. We came out of the room. We now want to meet Mukherjee. Our future course of action will depend on his reply.
It seems that the government is inclined to accept recommendation 6 of the Srikrishna report
The setting up of the regional boards has already been tried and they have failed. There is a Telangana Development Board existing and it has failed. Probably Justice Srikrishna was not aware of it!
If the government prevaricates or delays further, would you resign from Parliament?
We have already publicly made this statement. Eleven of us Congress MPs from Telangana have given in writing that if the Centre does not start the process of creating a separate state, we would have no option but to quit and join the public movement.
Is there a deadline given to the government?
We have already given upto June 1. We -- even (Union minister) Jaipal Reddy-- are not able to visit our constituencies.
What if there is a division in your ranks?
The party high command should understand that, to begin with, this was not our stand. It was the party's stand, from 2004 onwards, to create a separate state of Telangana. The Congress high command never went back on it. This was contained in the common minimum programme, in the President's address (to Parliament), in late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's statements, and in the central governments statement in December 2009.
What we are articulating is the party's policy as well as the popular public sentiment. If you don't align with it, the party will lose. That we as individuals will also lose elections is a separate issue.
Don't you think the Congress' problems in Andhra Pradesh have been compounded after the Kadapa by-polls and they are now not limited to the issue of Telangana?
It (Telangana) makes even more sense today, as a political move, after the recent byelection results. It is evident that Jagan Reddy will split the Congress votes in Andhra and Rayalseema, even though Kadapa is not a measuring stick for the entire state. Nor does he have the capacity to win the whole state. But he can split the Congress vote. How much, nobody knows. The Telugu Desam Party will tend to gain if the Congress vote splits.
In Telangana, if the party keeps its word, and the TRS has indicated that it will merge into the Congress if a separate state is formed, we are sure of getting all the 17 seats. Whereas the future in Andhra and Rayalseema is uncertain.
Out of 42 (Lok Sabha) seats, we have 33 at the moment. We are unlikely to go upto that figure again. So let us start with 17, instead of zero. By not creating a separate state, you can be sure that we (Congress) will not win back a single seat of the 12 we won from the Telangana region. And it is the number of seats from the state which have determined whether a combine comes to power at the Centre. This was true of the United Progressive Alliance as well as of the United Front government.
Knowing its outcome, why did the Congress make Kadapa into such a high profile prestigious fight?
It was a mistake. We shouldn't have done it. The Congress should have said that YSR was a Congress leader and his widow was fighting the election.
As for Jagan Reddy, there was a vicious campaign by him against Sonia Gandhi. He said that she did not give an appointment to his mother, she split their family (his uncle contested against him in Kadapa). His papers and television channels kept asking 'Who is Sonia Gandhi?' and pitching it as a 'YSR Congress vs Italy Congress'.
No central minister countered this vicious campaign. And K V P Ramachandra Rao, Jagan's advisor, who is still a Congress MP, never opens his mouth. He has never criticised Jagan Reddy. You have a situation where the ministers are in the Congress, but their brothers, sons are with Jagan. And KVP manages all this.
They have contracts worth Rs 50,000 crore even today, using their influence. Even now (inconvenient) officers can be shifted. KVP is on the standing committee of finance. It is a scandal worse than 2G.
Do you think the merger of Chiranjeevi's party will help the Congress?
That would depend on how we utilise him. He has mass appeal, but no cadre support. If he can communicate the Congress' welfare policies, he could be an effective leader. But if you just take him and leave him there, without giving him responsibility, then what is the point of it?
In some way the results of the five assembly elections do not portend well for the Congress. They show a decline of he party in the south. Even in Kerala, where the Congress is leading a coalition government, the party has declined, compared to its showing in the 2009 general elections?
The party has to take serious note of this and restrategise its approach. The south has stood by the Congress when the rest of the country had forsaken it. We cannot afford to ignore this.