Congress ploy for political dividend: Classical language, Telangana statehood
by Ashok B Sharma on 28 Feb 2014 9 Comments
For politicians it is the political dividend that matters most, rather than the development of the country. The ruling Congress party, wary of a reversal of fortunes in the forthcoming polls, has played with the sentiments of the people of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The party has effectively used the issue of classical language and Telangana statehood to cater to the gallery.  


The Union Cabinet declared Odia as a classical language on the eve of the polls. Odia is no doubt a culturally rich language and one of the oldest Indian languages. But the Government while declaring it a classical language has given strange arguments which are contrary to facts. The official press release of February 20 says Odia language has “no resemblance to Sanskrit.” Linguists and scholars know very well that all the modern Indo-Aryan languages evolved primarily from Vedic Sanskrit that later evolved to Epic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit. Pali, Prakrit, Apbramsha were the transitional stages to the modern Indian languages like Bengali, Odia, Assamese, Punjabi, Marathi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Hindi et al. To say that Odia does not have any resemblance to Sanskrit is totally contrary to the facts.


Further the official release says: “So far Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam have been declared as classical languages.”


This shows that the Government has not yet declared Pali or Prakrit as classical language despite the fact that these two are languages of antiquity and have volumes of rich literature. These two languages predate the arrival of Buddha and Mahavira, and are intimately associated with the religious, intellectual and cultural traditions associated with Buddhism and Jainism.


Why then have these two languages not been accorded the status of classical languages? The answer is simple. Buddhists and Jains in the country do not have adequate numbers to matter in votebank politics.  


The government’s action is likely to have fallout on such an emotive issue. Almost every regional language in the country, one after the other, will claim the status of Classical Language, thus diluting the concept of classical language.


But the ruling Congress party is unmindful of what is likely to happen in future as long as it is able to reap political dividends. In Odisha, the Congress has been out of power for 15 years. The leadership of the state unit has seen several changes over the years. But none of the leaders could be effective in dislodging Naveen Patnaik. Both the Congress and the BJP remain weak and ineffective in Odisha. Odisha represents 21 seats in the Lok Sabha, out of which the Biju Janata Dal bagged 14 in the last general elections, leaving 6 to Congress and one to CPI. In Odisha, the Assembly polls will synchronise with the Lok Sabha polls. In the last Assembly polls, the Congress party could secure only 27 seats in the 147-member house. Thus Congress with this emotive appeal hopes to reap some political dividend in the coming polls.


Similar is the case with Telangana statehood. The Congress being wary of losing in Andhra Pradesh supported the cause of Telangana statehood to maintain some hold in the region.


Like the issue of classical language, the Telangana statehood has opened a Pandora’s Box of demand for separate states in different parts of the country - Vidarbha from Maharashtra;  Kamptapur from West Bengal and Assam; Gorkhaland from West Bengal; Bodoland, Karbi Anglong and Dima Raji from Assam. Sooner or later, Rayalaseema may call for separation from Seemandhra and the proposal for splitting Uttar Pradesh into four separate states may be on the anvil (it may also be the least problematic, as it is based on administrative reasons rather than linguistic or ethnic identity).


The 15th session of the Lok Sabha that concluded on Friday was the most disrupted session in the history of Indian Parliament so far, including the infamous pepper spray incident by a Sonia Gandhi loyalist to express discontent over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. This shows how low political leaders can sink to achieve their goals.


Disruptions were the order of the day, so much so that the Lok Sabha witnessed almost a full session being washed away on the issue of JPC in the 2G spectrum scam. This was unprecedented. There was also uproar on the demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the coal block allocation scam. The storm over Telangana led to several unprecedented developments in the last session of the House which had 13 sittings. Even though Speaker Meira Kumar wanted a “grand finale” to the Lok Sabha, it is for everyone to judge if it was so. As many as 16 members from Seemandhra region were suspended ahead of the passage of the Telangana Bill. Supporters and opponents of separate Telangana were at loggerheads at the drop of a hat.


Almost the entire speech of Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, while presenting the interim railway budget, was tabled in the Lok Sabha due to turmoil, while the interim budget 2014-15 containing the Vote-on-account for four months was passed without discussion.


After the death of YSR, the Congress messed up the situation in Andhra Pradesh. People’s faith in the party was shaken. The party therefore bifurcated the State to gain the sympathy of at least the Telangana region that has 17 Lok Sabha seats. The remaining Seemandhra region has 25 seats in the Lok Sabha; Andhra Pradesh is also slated to elect its state Assembly along with the Lok Sabha polls.


The Telangana Bill was passed by both Houses of the Parliament in the midst of controversies and confusion with the support of the principal Opposition party, BJP, which also aspires for some political dividend. The debate over Telangana Bill in the Lok Sabha was not telecast by the Lok Sabha TV channel, citing unconvincing reasons. Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh against a resolution of the state Assembly, unlike the case for Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.


With a view to placate Seemandhra region, the Prime Minister announced a six-point mega financial package including special category status for five years that would provide easy funds for infrastructure development, tax holiday to woo industries, a development scheme for backward areas and support to the Pollavaram irrigation project. The resource gap for Seemandhra (coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema) in its first year would be compensated in the regular Union Budget for 2014-15.

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