The Politics on Telangana – II
by Krishnarjun on 06 Dec 2013 4 Comments

In 1904, the Telugus began to assert their identity under the Young Men’s Literary Association in Guntur district of coastal Andhra, and created a map with Telugu speaking areas of Hyderabad state, Karnataka, Madras state, Central Provinces and Orissa, which eventually took the form of Andhra Mahasabha. Andhra Congress leaders demanded a separate Congress committee for Telugus and the Andhra Mahasabha spread its wings. In Telangana it was called the Nizam Andhra Mahasabha.


Under the Nizam, Telugus were discriminated and the official language in administration, courts, and medium of instruction in education was Urdu. Special permission was needed to even conduct meetings in Telugu. The Nizam Andhra Mahasabha after painstaking efforts managed to establish some Telugu libraries and schools. It gradually acquired strength in Telangana and emerged as the voice of the oppressed Telugu population under the Nizam and his feudatories, known as Doras, Deshmukhs, Patelsand Jagirdars.


The Communist Party sensed an opportunity and took up the Visalandhra (united Andhra) cause and infiltrated the Andhra Mahasabha. When Qasim Rizvi’s Razakar army was perpetrating heinous crimes on the Telangana people, the Nizam Andhra Mahasabha led a guerrilla-style armed struggle against the Razakars, which turned into the Telangana sayudha poratam (armed struggle) against the Nizam, with the active participation of the Communist Party.


The Nizam Andhra Mahasabha received support from coastal Andhra districts which provided shelter to the leadership, logistics, monetary support to buy arms and volunteers to fight against the Nizam. The Communists were very active in these districts and their network was fully channelized on the Visalandhra plank to support the Telangana struggle. Sardar Patel sent the Indian Army (Operation Polo) and Hyderabad joined the Union in 1948. The Communists continued to fight the Indian Union without popular support and were eventually crushed.


The Telugus in Madras state demanded a separate Telugu state with Madras city as its capital; Potti Sriramulu began an indefinite fast and after his death, Andhra state was formed on October 1, 1953 without Madras. Rajagopalachari threatened to resign if Madras which had a huge Telugu population, was given to Andhra.


The British had got Madras from a Telugu ruler, Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu of Kalahasti; it was named Chennapatnam after his father Chennapa nayakudu. Now, the Telugus were not allowed to use Chennai even as temporary capital and had to find a capital inside Andhra. The communists favoured Vijayawada where they had strong influence. But in the voting for the capital, Kurnool in Rayalaseema was chosen even though it lacked basic infrastructure.  Caste factors also played an important role in the choice. The Rayalaseema leaders wanted the capital in their region in exchange for their support for a separate Andhra state.


The demand for a united Telugu state with Telangana region peaked. Nehru was not in favour of it and termed it “expansionist imperialism”.  He appointed the Fazal Ali Commission to look into the issue, but the Commission was ambiguous and recommended merging Telangana with Andhra after five years if approved by Telangana legislators with two-thirds majority. The United Andhra supporters on both sides insisted on a united Telugu state. More than two-third Telugu legislators of Hyderabad state voted for merger with coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, and finally Andhra Pradesh emerged as the first linguistic state in the Indian Union on November 1, 1956.


A gentleman’s agreement was signed between the leaders of both regions to safeguard the interests of Telangana. It provided reservation for Telangana locals in government services, a regional council for Telangana, and either the chief minister or deputy chief minister’s post for Telangana region. The agreement was to be valid for 15 years. Sanjeeva Reddy became the first chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh, and immediately removed the post of deputy CM, thus violating the agreement he himself had signed!


Telangana had surplus revenue on account of liquor sales. Liquor was banned in coastal Andhra. As the gentleman’s agreement was coming to end in 1969, politics began in Telangana alleging improper implementation of the agreement, that surplus revenues were not spent in Telangana and non-Telangana people were given jobs in the region. It was claimed that 5000 non-locals got jobs and Rs 33cr surplus revenue was not spent on Telangana. The Brahmananda Reddy regime agreed to resolve the issue of Rs 33cr surplus revenue and spend it in the fourth five-year plan.


But Chenna Reddy whose election was declared invalid in 1968 was working behind the scenes for a separate Telangana. A protest by a student in Khammam snowballed into an agitation of a separate Telangana.  In the parliamentary elections, Chenna Reddy’s Telangana Praja Parishad won 11 out of 14 seats, but Indira Gandhi refused to budge and the party had to merge with the Congress; Chenna Reddy returned to his home party.


In 1972, the Supreme Court had upheld separate recruitment for Telangana locals based on domicile rules called “Mulki rules”. This caused widespread student resentment in coastal Andhra. A separate Andhra agitation started in the coastal districts. Again, Indira Gandhi refused to divide the state and the separatists had to recede. There was peace for the next three decades.


In 1982, popular cinestar NT Rama Rao set up the Telugu Desam Party on the plank of Telugu pride and rode to power in a record nine months, winning a majority in all three regions. In seven years, the TDP regime initiated longterm changes in administration, removed hereditary patel-patwari positions, decentralized the government, and reformed education. NTR gave opportunities to backward castes and these measures helped TDP strike deep roots in Telangana. NTR achieved the highest growth rate in AP history with his focus on infrastructure, agriculture and industry. In Hyderabad, he controlled the incessant Hindu-Muslim riots, improved infrastructure, and attempted to make it a model Telugu city. The pace of migration from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to Hyderabad under NTR.


In 1989, NTR lost power to Congress, but returned in 1994 owing to its misrule. Congress was routed, losing even the status of opposition party in the Assembly. But soon NTR’s son-in-law Chandra Babu Naidu took over the reins of the TDP and government in a well-planned coup executed with the support of a powerful lobby including Governor Krishnakanth, media baron Eenadu owner Ramoji Rao and perhaps the silent blessings of PM PV Narasimha Rao.


In 1997, the state unit of the BJP passed a resolution for two separate states of Andhra and Telangana. In the 1998 Parliament elections it won two seats each in coastal Andhra and Telangana with 18 percent vote. It was a vote for stability at the Center and against the antics of Chandra Babu Naidu who refused to support the BJP. The TDP MPs became ministers in the United Front with support from the Congress. This irritated many anti-Congress voters in Andhra and the BJP secured over 20 percent votes in Telangana region. Many interpreted the vote for BJP in Telangana region as a vote for a separate state, and in the 1999 Parliament and Assembly elections, the TDP-BJP alliance swept Andhra Pradesh. Naidu became chief minister for the second time and the NDA Government began a second stint in power with comfortable numbers.


YS Rajasekar Reddy, a leading politician from Rayalaseema, lost out of seniors like Chenna Reddy, Janardhan Reddy and Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy when PV Narasimha Rao controlled the Congress. But after Sonia Gandhi became Congress president, he became her favorite to lead the Andhra Pradesh unit. After losing to Naidu in the 1999 elections, he felt the need to revive separate Telangana to weaken the TDP due to the caste factor.


Andhra Pradesh politics was always deeply casteist; but Brahmin influence on Congress diminished immediately after independence. The Reddys took over the Congress and with their influence in Rayalaseema and Telangana managed to become chief ministers the maximum times, until NTR established the TDP. The Kammas (coastal Andhra, Krishna-Godavari delta) supported the Communist Party though they had leadership in Congress also. In numbers they were next to the Reddys in the legislature. But when NTR stormed to power, the Congress branded the party as “Kamma Desam Party” and tried to brand the abolition of hereditary Patel-Patwaris in Telangana as an attack on Brahmins.


In the coastal city of Vijayawada, the leaders of two rival gangs managed to enter the Assembly. One was a TDP MLA from the Kamma caste and other a Congress MLA from the Kapu caste. The gangs had a history of violence, and the Kapu MLA allegedly murdered the brother of the Kamma MLA. Fearing retaliation, he demanded special security from the state government. Actively encouraged by Congress bosses, he began to project himself as a Kapu representative, but was murdered, allegedly by the Kamma MLA. Caste riots erupted in coastal Andhra and Vijayawada was almost burnt down with rioters looting and targeting businesses and life, particularly of Kammas. The Centre under Rajiv Gandhi refused to provide forces to control the situation for a week, and the violence created schisms between the Kammas and Kapus. The Kapus actively supported NTR in 1983 and were decently accommodated in positions they had never enjoyed before. But after this episode, the Congress managed to brand the TDP as a Kamma party and NTR lost the 1989 Assembly elections even though his party had won the local body elections the previous year.


After the 1999 defeat, YSR attempted a similar trick. Though both YSR and Naidu hail from Rayalaseema, Naidu is an outsider and his Kamma caste is politically insignificant in Telangana. YSR has caste affinity with the powerful Reddys in Telangana. He urged the Congress leadership in Delhi to agree to a separate Telangana, and Congress MLAs from the region formed the Telangana Congress Legislators Forum. Previously, YSR had demanded a separate Rayalaseema when NTR became chief minister for the first time. In 2001, K Chandra Sekhar Rao, a four-time MLA of Velama caste, left the TDP because Naidu made his caste fellow, former CBI director K Vijaya Rama Rao, a minister, overlooking his claim. He launched the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) for a separate Telangana.


In 2004, Congress allied with TRS and the Communists and defeated the TDP-BJP alliance, and YSR finally became chief minister. His reign saw unprecedented corruption, nepotism and active state support to Christian evangelism. But having achieved power, he began to dismantle the TRS by weaning away its elected members. He also tried to destroy the TDP’s support base. Chandra Babu Naidu was no match for YSR. But Telugu media like Eenadu, Andhra Jyothy stood up and exposed the massive corruption of the regime despite all attempts to silence them.


While in power between 1999 -2004, Naidu forced the BJP to abandon separate Telangana and the leadership in Delhi quietly obliged. After the 2004 defeat, he snapped ties with the BJP on the bogey of secularism. But by 2009, Naidu was desperate to stop YSR, especially after the political debut of film star Chiranjeevi, so he hastily declared support for separate Telangana and aligned with TRS and the Communists. In the 2009 elections, out of 40 seats contested, the TRS won only 10 seats, KCR himself narrowly escaped defeat. YSR scraped through with a thin majority. Chiranjeevi couldn’t win significant seats but his party had split the anti-government votes.


KCR lost his appeal as his party was routed. But in September 2009, YSR died in a helicopter crash and the crisis created in the state Congress by his son Jagan gave a fresh lease of life to KCR. He began an indefinite fast, and on December 9, Union Home Minister Chidambaram announced the separate state as a birthday gift from Sonia Gandhi to the Telangana people.


Until then, there was no visible protest in the Andhra-Seema region, where people patiently tolerated KCR’s repeated abuses against them. They ignored him as he had never received a popular mandate even in Telangana. But after Chidambaram’s statement, protests erupted in coastal Andhra and local pressure forced Andhra-Seema politicians to resign. This sudden and spontaneous response from Andhra-Seema was an unexpected twist in the Congress plot. It resorted to delaying tactics – a committee was set up under Justice Srikrishna to look into the issue.


To be concluded…

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