Congress’s Telangana troubles
Demands for smaller states would be the most troublesome political issue for the ruling Congress in 2010. That’s, of course, assuming that nothing unexpected such as a terror attack happens.
Senior Congress leaders acknowledge this and do admit that the announcement on the night of December 9, 2009 that the union government would set in motion the process of formation of Telangana was done in haste. With similar demands from other places getting louder and Telangana remaining volatile, Congress is repenting in leisure. Well, not exactly.
How did the Congress land in this trouble?
The Congress core group, comprising of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Ahmad Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony and P Chidambaram approved the statement before the home minister read it out. The statement had gone through several drafts on the night of December 9, and the people involved were definitely the finest political minds of the party. The decision certainly was a collective one.
According to people who are in the know, the core group acted under the assumption that K Chandrashkhar Rao, who was on a fast unto death, would die and it would lead to bloodbath in the region. The inputs essentially came from Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah who had panicked.
On earlier occasions when similar demands became louder, the late YS Rajshekhar Reddy was a reassuring presence. His political acumen had been proved right several times over– that there is no extraordinary or unmanageable public support for a separate state. In the 2009 elections too, it was substantially proven. YSR stood firm and managed the fallouts himself, shielding the central leadership from ever being pushed into a decision.
Congress policy towards demands for smaller states has been ambiguous. In the 2004 NCMP it mentioned the formation of a Second State Reorganisation Commission (SRC). The political utility of smaller states for a particular party is a dynamic one – for instance, the BJP was wrong in assuming that Uttarkhand would remain its stronghold forever. However, from a managerial and governance point of view, the Congress could support smaller states.
But the present situation is a lose-lose one for the party. It needs all its brains to work together to get out of it. And, that’s not happening.