Telangana back in centrestage of Andhra Pradesh politics (News Analysis)

October 10th, 2008 - 2:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Oct 10 (IANS) The Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) decision to support the demand for separate statehood for Andhra Pradesh’s Telangana region has brought the issue back to the centrestage and is likely to put pressure on the ruling Congress party to take a similar stand ahead of the elections scheduled to be held in five months.The fact that the TDP was forced to reverse its 26-year-old ideological plank of unified Andhra Pradesh proves how significant the issue has become in the run up to the simultaneous polls to state assembly and Lok Sabha.

The TDP is the first major political party with state-wide presence to take a clear stand in favour of the six-decade old demand for separate Telangana state. The party took a u-turn on the issue after realising that it would be difficult to regain the lost ground in the region without taking a pro-Telangana stand.

Telangana sends as many as 119 legislators to the 294-member state legislative assembly and accounts for 17 out of 42 members of Lok Sabha from the state.

The TDP had fought the 2004 elections on the plank of united Andhra Pradesh. The party not only lost power to the Congress party but was nearly wiped out from Telangana. The party’s strength in the assembly came down drastically to 45.

The Congress had then fought elections in alliance with Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), fighting for separate Telangana, and two Communist parties. The electoral understanding with TRS was based on the Congress’ assurance to help achieve the separate state.

However, with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government failing to take any concrete step for formation of Telangana, the TRS pulled out of the coalition and accused Congress of once again betraying the people of Telangana. It termed the formation of a three-member committee led by Pranab Mukherjee to look into the demand as a delaying tactic.

The Congress state unit left the issue to party president Sonia Gandhi for a final decision. With TDP reversing its stand, pressure is likely to mount on the Congress to take a clear stand on the issue.

Political analysts say the ‘grand alliance’ that the TDP is trying to forge with the TRS and Left parties, and Congress party’s own cadre in Telangana will put pressure on the Congress.

State Congress president D. Srinivas, who hails from the Telangana region, welcomed the stand taken by TDP and admitted that the UPA would have to take a clear stand.

For TRS, the change of stand by TDP is a major victory. The party was under attack for holding talks with TDP for electoral alliance without the latter supporting a separate state. As the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) floated recently by superstar Chiranjeevi has also hinted at a pro-Telangana stand, it is only the Congress party whose stand on the issue remains ambiguous.

The TDP, which was opposed to bifurcation of the state ever since N.T. Rama Rao floated the party in 1982, admitted that no political party could remain oblivious to the sentiments of the people of Telangana. United Andhra Pradesh was one of the important pillars on which NTR had founded the party.

TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu termed the reversal of stand a ‘historic necessity’ and hoped that people of coastal Andhra and Rayalseema would understand this.

Interestingly, it was TDP leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao who quit the party in 2001 to form TRS and revive the Telangana movement. The TDP also witnessed desertions on the issue more recently. Its senior leader T. Devender Goud, seen as number two in the party, quit to float Nava Telangana Praja Party (NTPP) to bolster the movement for a separate state.

Some analysts see the reversal of stand as a political ploy by the TDP to win allies. They feel that the TDP may be following in the footsteps of Congress party, which used the Telangana issue on several occasions, the latest being the 2004 elections.

The Congress backed the movement for Telangana in 1969 but backed out when formation of a separate state looked certain. It has also been accused of stoking the fires of separatism in Andhra and Rayalseema.

It remain to be seen if the TDP is using the issue as a desperate move to return to power in the state. Like the Congress party, the TDP might also support separatism but get away when it comes to deliver a separate Telangana.

Telangana, comprising 10 districts, including Hyderabad, was part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State. It was merged with Andhra State in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh although the people of Telangana wanted to have their own identity.

The region has since then witnessed several agitations for separate statehood. More than 300 people were killed in the violent agitation of 1969.

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