(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 20, 2009
Opportunistic Politics Lead to Unprecedented Crisis
N S Arjun
IT is indeed a strange spectacle for the people of Andhra Pradesh in recent times. Elected people's representatives, who till the other day were bitterly divided on party lines, are today united on regional lines. And party bosses, who were seen to be having iron-clad control over their parties till recently, looked helpless and incompetent as droves of their MLAs, MPs and district units openly defied their parties' stand. For the bourgeois parties in the state – the Congress, Telugu Desam, Praja Rajyam and BJP – the plight they find themselves in today is actually their wages of opportunism. It is another matter that opportunism is actually one of their tools of operation.
The state of Andhra Pradesh has been pushed into one of its major political crises in its history with the central government's decision to initiate the process of formation of separate Telangana state on December 9, 2009. At the last count, 139 MLAs of Andhra and Rayalaseema regions belonging to Congress, TDP and Praja Rajyam have sent in their resignations to the speaker of legislative assembly protesting the centre's decision. The parties are vertically divided on regional lines. The agitation launched in non-Telangana regions against this decision and as a counter to the separate Telangana agitation is continuing at the time of writing. The UPA government, which took this hasty decision and put the country's unity under threat with similar demands for separate statehoods emerging from various parts, has so far not acted to bring the situation in the state back to normal.
Meanwhile, the attacks on people in terms of spiralling prices, cutbacks in welfare schemes, absence of relief to drought and flood-affected people, retrenchment etc go on merrily with people's attention diverted on to emotional issues. It must also be noted that the present crisis emerged not on people's issues but due to the internal rivalries and contradictions in the bourgeois parties.
The major responsibilty for the present crisis lies with the ruling Congress party. Right from the formation of an integrated state of Andhra Pradesh for the Telugu-speaking people, its role has been a negative one. It sought to continue the British imperialists policy of divide and rule. As is known, the British had arbitrarily carved India into presidencies and provinces with multi-lingual people in order to carry on their occupation by dividing the people. Recognising this gameplan, the Indian National Congress had as early as 1922 organised its branches not on the basis of British provinces but on linguistic basis. It clearly expressed its intention of forming linguistic states post-Independence. However, the Nehru government went back on its word and preferred to continue the British arrangement with few minor changes. At this stage the Communist Party championed the cause of linguistic states in order to promote unity among people and strengthen the federal character of the nation. Mass movements took place under its leadership for formation of Vishalandhra, Aikya Kerala, Samyukta Maharashtra etc which were led by leaders like P Sundarayya, EMS Namboodiripad and Dange. This forced the hand of the Congress which formed the first States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) under the chairmanship of Justice Fazal Ali. At that time there was Andhra state comprising the nine districts of coastal Andhra and four districts of Rayalaseema with Kurnool as capital and Hyderabad state comprising ten districts of Telangana with Hyderabad as capital. Without the historic Telangana armed struggle ledby the Communist Party during 1946-51, in which around four thousand peasants and agricultural labour became martyrs, the Nizam dominion would not have merged with Indian Union and the Hyderabad state would not have come into existence. The Communist Party sought logical conclusion of this armed struggle against feudal forces in Telangana by way of its merger into an integrated state of Andhra Pradesh. The feudal Congress leaders of the region sought to obstruct this and made Nehru also agree to continuation of Hyderabad state as a separate entity. Given this background, the Fazal Ali Commission despite enumerating the positives of forming an unified state, ultimately recommended that there could be an option of forming unified state after 6 years of continuation as separate states. With people's resistance and also by a majority vote of 72 in the then Hyderabad state assembly of 95, the issue was forced and the feudal opposition overcome.
This feudal opposition continued since then. There was a Gentleman's Agreement between the leaders of Hyderabad state and Andhra state in the presence of central leaders of Congress wherein some guarantees were sought and given regarding spending of resources in the region, the share in employment, irrigation and share in political power etc. The Communist Party, despite its reservations about such an agreement leading to institutionalisation of differences among people, agreed to it in view of the misgivings of Telangana Congress leaders and in order to pave way for smooth formation of the state. But it was the same Congress which threw this agreement and many other promises made later into the dustbin by not implementing them. The same leaders who as part of the government did nothing for developing the backward Telangana region led an agitation in 1969 seeking separate statehood for Telangana citing the same backwardness. At that time also students were provoked by these elements resulting in around 370 of them being killed in police firing. Comrade P Sundarayya analysing that movement had stated: "The 22 year long rule of the Congress party has resulted in unprecedented levels of unemployment, particularly among the educated youth. There is high level of poverty among people and dissatisfaction among the middle classes. Taking advantage of this situation, reactionary forces and feudal landlords of Telangana region, with generous help from sections of capitalists of both regions, started this agitation for seperate statehoods. We view this as beginning of an attack on nation's unity and integrity by anti-democratic forces." Congress leader Dr M Chenna Reddy who led this movement after floating an independent party, later merged that party into Congress and went on to become the chief minister of the state. That their commitment to development of backward Telangana was bogus became clear during his tenure when he did not take any steps in that direction.
Later also successive governments of Congress have sought to keep the differences simmering in order to capitalise them politically at an opportune time. The present decision of the central government came as a bolt to not only the Telengana Rashtra Samithi president who was into his tenth day of indefinite fast but also to many Congress leaders. They were not expecting such a firm commitment from Congress high command. Post Y S Rajashekar Reddy's demise, the Congress unit in the state is badly divided and it is well known how their high command had to struggle to keep YSR's son, Jagan Mohan Reddy away from the chief minister's chair. The Jagan camp was making moves to remove Rosaiah from chief ministership. There were also intelligence reports about 'Maoists' infiltrating into the Osmania University students agitation for seperate Telangana and the possibility of their entrenchement in this region. Maybe, all this prompted the Congress into taking the decision, but the manner in which it has taken has put sections of people of one region against those of other.
On the evening of December 8, chief minister Rosaiah hurriedly convened an all party meeting after receiving orders from Delhi. Except for the CPI(M), which stood unwaveringly against splitting the state, and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) which sought two days time to convey their stand, all parties declared support for seperate Telangana state. The Congress legislature party had left the issue to the decision of the high command through a one line resolution. The proceedings of the meeting were conveyed to Delhi and may have played a part in the final decision announced.
But the next day after announcement made by the union home minister, faced with adverse reaction in other regions, these parties non-chalantly changed their positions. Telugu Desam party, which under its founder N T Rama Rao stood firmly for an integrated state and for strengthening of federalism, was the worst affected. Party president Chandrababu Naidu had revised this long-standing position of the party on the eve of 2009 elections with an eye on electoral benefit. At that time no leader worth his name protested this volte face and smugly carried on. Either they were hoping that this would also be one of the numerous electoral promises which would remain on paper or they had complete confidence on Congress party's commitment to an integrated state. The party is vertically divided on regional lines and all the pleadings of Chandrababu Naidu to maintain restraint have fallen on deaf ears. Now to salvage situation, there is talk of floating a separate Telangana unit of the party!
Similarly Praja Rajyam, which has 16 MLAs, and had announced their commitment for formation of a 'social justice Telangana' – whatever that meant – was similarly split. Thirteen of their MLAs plunged into unified state movement in coastal and Rayalaseema regions after resigning their posts. This finally forced the president Chiranjeevi to also resign and join the movement. The two MLAs from Telangana and various district units have threatened to resign in protest against this 'betrayal' of their party.
Unike in 1969, this time the CPI openly opted for formation of Telangana state and its mass organisations like AISF took part in the agitation in Osmania University. But with the central government's decision, this party also has been affected with its mass organisations in non-Telangana regions openly participating in the agitation for an integrated state. Its units in Krishna district have openly defied the party stance. Similar is the case with BJP even as its leaders in Telangana are vying to take credit for the announcement.
It is only the CPI(M) now which has stood steadfast in defence of a unified linguistic states concept since the beginning despite tremendous pressure brought on it. At the peak of the recent agitation in Osmania University, a delegation of students came to Party state office and pleaded with state leaders to lend support saying "with your arrival, the movement will take a qualitatively new turn". Similarly in the ongoing agitation in non-Telangana areas, leaders of other parties are seeking CPI(M)'s participation citing Party's stance for unified state. In both cases, the CPI(M) has refused saying it seeks unity of the people. The presitige of the Party has grown among people of both the regions given the unwavering and principled stand it adopted on this entire issue. It seeks to take forward the movement on people's issues and show the people why their unity is essential for solving their problems.