Way back in 2003, only to embarrass the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, opposition leader Rajasekhara Reddy got about forty Congress MLAs write a letter to Sonia Gandhi seeking to establish Telangana. Seeking second term, the then Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy had promised separate Telangana if he comes to power. Strong man he was compared with other regional satraps of Congress’ he had the state machinery to his favour. Assembly elections were so scheduled that the first phase of elections happened in Telangana region. Post voting in the first phase, he simply went to the Rayalaseema region and spoke about how a vote to Telugu Desam party would be a vote for dividing the state – and got almost all seats in both Coastal region and Rayalaseema region.
Fooling people of the state with his Machiavellian tactics, he ruled the state by dividing the people and playing with their emotions. Post his sudden death, his successors of Congress government couldn’t match their wits and finally – almost reminding the British, Chidambaram had declared dividing the state into two. By that time many lives were lost in the agitations demanding Telangana and Samaikyandhra as well. The state that was considered pioneer in development was in chaos of all types of politics and the mutual distrust between people of different regions were second only to the hate between India and Pakistan.
Congress promised the new state of Andhra Pradesh that would be losing its share of revenues arising out of the IT industry based in Hyderabad special status and support from the Union government to establish all infrastructure that is needed to have a modern government in place.
Yet, when the bill to bifurcate the state was introduced in the Parliament, Congress failed to include the mention of special status to the dismay of the people of state of Andhra Pradesh.
Though Congress expected a rout in the new state, it expected to return to power in Telangana. But, people of both states rejected Congress rejecting playing politics in the name of governance.
In the run to 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi visiting Andhra had promised to fulfil all the needs of the new state, including the special status. However, post elections, BJP had no need of allies, at least in the Lok Sabha. And it slowly dawned on the BJP cabinet that promising something while in opposition and fulfilling the same being in power are two different things. Though BJP was not averse to granting the special status to the state of Andhra Pradesh, they only sensed the flurry of demands for similar demands from other states, especially from Nitish ruled Bihar. Unlike the rule of Chandrababu Naidu that had pioneered all forms of new governance including the e-governance, other states are being ruled by those leaders who were notorious of their sincerity.
Experience in administration and polity are two different things. Perhaps, even after his defeat from Amritsar, Arun Jaitley had not understood the game in full. Like a typical bureaucrat, (in all probability, he took Chandrababu Naidu in confidence) he rejected special status to one or any state, but gave funds to meet the needs of new state. For the last two years, Chandrababu Naidu was a man on mission to etch his name in the annals of the new state. And, with the poor quality of ministers, it is really tough for him to administer the new state that was famous for caste politics. Apart from regular administration, Chandrababu was busy in promoting his son Lokesh (who was in competition with Jagarmohan Reddy, son of Rajasekhara Reddy in becoming the Rahul Gandhi of Andhra Pradesh).
Smarting from his experiences in Jail, out on bail leader Jaganmohan Reddy with the help from all and sundry leaders of state Congress made the special status an issue of political importance. Even the Union government cannot afford continuous disturbance in the rice bowl of South India. And finally Arun Jaitley had to concede he would consider the special status to the state.
More than this, the Bhishma of Congress woke from deep slumber suddenly, he was silent when all dirty politics were being played by Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad – all are politicians not concerned with Andhra Pradesh, before partition. Though he made promises to the people of new state, Manmohan Singh failed to include his promises in the state bifurcation bill. He knew he was the leader of a government that was on its way out, while the state was being bifurcated. Still, he did nothing to safeguard interests of the new state.
Finally, Manmohan Singh spoke. Manmohan Singh spoke in the Parliament requesting the government to honour ‘his promises made in the capacity of Prime Minister of India in the august house’ to the new state. Too sad, one recognises the sanctity of the chair, post losing the same. Never he recognised the sanctity of the chair and its authority. From the 2G scam to Coal scam, all Manmohan Singh did was to undermine the constitutional authority that was vested in the post of Prime Minister. He failed to live up to the chair, when Rahul Gandhi had the audacity of tearing the proposed bill to take care of convicts like Laloo. Manmohan Singh should never have allowed to let his administration to stoop to so low, where even Rahul Gandhi could correct them.
May be Manmohan Singh go down in the history of Independent India, as one man, who despite could, did nothing for the nation. For all the talks of his being the architect of economic reforms, one fails to understand, if Manmohan Singh really was so talented, why he could do nothing being the Prime Minister for one decade. And the first man out of the Nehru-Gandhi family to rule two full, successive terms.
Anyway, in this entire episode there is a takeaway for all parties, including the ruling BJP and TDP, as Congress has no need to learn new things, for they knew already too much. Running state or union government is not only about administration, but the leaders shall concern about the realpolitik as well. The sort of special status bill being forced on the parliament, in the form of a private bill is an example of what could be achieved when people of the state know what they want. It may be an indication to the old guard of Congress and even to the new BJP leadership that people of new India could no more be seduced by attractive slogans.