Telangana episode a warning to Sangh Parivar
by Krishnarjun on 02 Mar 2014 23 Comments
The unacceptable and insulting way in which Andhra Pradesh was divided shakes any residual trust left in India’s democratic institutions. The way both the Government and the Opposition leadership colluded in the Lok Sabha confirms the suspicions about the compromised leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). If dissent can be stifled and dirty tricks used in Parliament, the highest democratic institution, to pass an important bill in the dark, one wonders if such a farce can be called democracy. While no sane person can expect anything good from this totally corrupt, insensitive, mafia-style government the country has ever seen, the Opposition was not far behind in sharing this glory with the regime.  


The shameless arrogance of the UPA was matched by the impotence of a compromised Opposition. The fact that Sushma Swaraj (chinamma) begged for a little credit for the formation of Telangana State speaks volumes about the stature and quality of opposition leadership in Parliament. The question arises how such incompetent and compromised persons ended up as leaders of the principal opposition party in parliament. It’s not just about the Andhra Reorganization Bill; forget about cornering government, they seem to have made secret agreements with the regime on every issue that came up on the floor of the house. For the last decade there seems to be no distinction between government and opposition.


People will soon reconcile to a separate State, but Seemandhra is deeply hurt. People now expect nothing from the Congress, but they did expect some sane behavior from the BJP. They do not understand the internal dynamics within the BJP, but they hoped something from Narendra Modi; what happened in the Lok Sabha really shook their confidence. He needs to address their concerns soon.


The BJP highlighted the separate Telangana issue in 1998, when Hyderabad was not even one-third of what it is today. In the NDA coalition, bowing to Telugu Desam pressure, they quietly dropped the issue. Since then, they have let unscrupulous elements hijack the issue and vitiate the relationship between people in the State. In 2014, the situation being different, they should have revised their stand or made necessary amendments. Sticking rigidly to a 15-year-old stand is not adherence to principles, certainly not for a dynamic political party that claims to work for people; it is intellectual laziness. They should have reviewed the situation and communicated with the people, rather than bungle under pressure from mafia-style tactics.


The 15-year drama for a separate Telangana has some important lessons for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which has been directly involved via frontal organizations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Andhra Pradesh is a predominantly Hindu state with a great Hindu cultural and spiritual heritage. The RSS is uncomfortable with regional diversity and hardly highlights this local heritage; their template is the same all over the country. They hardly speak of the Satavahana, Kakatiya, Vijayanagar dynasties or local heroes and achievers. As such, they cannot connect with the majority working class and their scope is limited to a narrow segment of the elite classes.


Their talent pool is limited; many potential mass leaders left, though some returned recently under the influence of Narendra Modi. Overall, the leadership is mostly unelectable. The Hindu castes capable of churning out mass leaders never took RSS seriously. Even when they agree with the Parivar ideology and finance some of its social work projects, they are reluctant to support it politically. In Andhra Pradesh, the situation is worse because the political and intellectual ecosystem is influenced by the Dravidian movement, Marxism and Naxalism and because of the language barrier which makes the Sangh Parivar look like a north Indian entity. Andhra Pradesh has historically supported the Congress for decades because it had a strong leadership rooted in one or other strong Hindu caste, as was the case in Maharashtra. But once a local hero like NT Rama Rao emerged as an alternative, they discarded the Congress, though it still occupied political space due to leaders with a strong caste background.


The Sangh Parivar couldn’t win over Seemandhra but managed to gain some influence in parts of Telangana where the Hindu population faced atrocities from the Nizam’s Razakars, the riots in Hyderabad city and the Naxalism in rural Telangana. But Leftist and anti-Hindu leanings are also strong in Telangana, as demonstrated by the celebration of Mahishasura and Ravana as icons in Osmania University in the recent past, which was later copied by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) brigade in Delhi.


Other than Venkaiah Naidu, most BJP leaders are from Telangana. After unsuccessful attempts to influence the entire Andhra Pradesh, the RSS supported a separate Telangana in 1998. The ABVP, its active student organization in the region, played a key role in the episode; many TRS leaders were active members of the RSS in the past. TRS leader Chandrasekhar Rao, frustrated by the strong-arm tactics of YS Rajshekhar Reddy to decimate his party by using caste affiliations after coming to power with an alliance, launched vituperative attacks on Seemandhra people.


This, more than the separate Telangana and Hyderabad issue, angered Seemandhra people and vitiated the atmosphere between the regions. Blinded by hatred they demolished statues of Telugu icons on Tank bund in Hyderabad. While KCR was provoking people, state BJP leaders and the ABVP collaborated with rowdy TRS elements and Maoist sympathetic groups on the ground. Other than some lip service, state BJP leaders neither bothered to oppose or protest KCR’s approach nor made efforts to reach out to Seemandhra people. Sushma Swaraj addressed meetings in Telangana promising separate state in 100 days if BJP was voted to power, but not once cared to address Seema people. The BJP leadership was silently complicit with KCR and his party in their abusive campaign against Seemandhra.


Now Telangana is separate, the question is whether the BJP can win significant seats in the coming polls or emerge as a political force in the near future. Telangana has a significant Backward Caste population compared to Seemandhra, the Upper caste population is just around 12%, and if Backward Castes connect with Modi they can win some seats. In the long run, RSS may have to find Backward Caste leadership to consolidate its clout or Naxal and anti-Hindu elements can gain.


Seemandhra is a different game. Historically Christian missionary activity is high in this region and their influence is not limited to the Scheduled Castes; there are many upper caste converts also. Under YSR, their activity increased to unprecedented levels; his son-in-law runs an evangelical empire and his family actively participates in mass evangelical gatherings. An influential Hindu caste with strong roots in Rayalaseema is solidly behind YSR’s son, Jagan Reddy. As of now, it seems that the Reddy-Dalit-Christian support base of Congress has migrated to Jagan’s party in Seemandhra and an incremental vote from upper castes and Backward Castes could bring his party closer to a majority. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) with its Kamma-Backward Caste support base also needs incremental vote from other upper castes. Both parties are evenly balanced and whoever gains the extra vote could win a majority in Seemandhra.


The RSS in Seemandhra is incapable of tackling the widespread missionary activity; Jagan’s victory will make things worse. The only option is to join hands with TDP, but the antagonism between upper castes which constitute 32 per cent of the coastal Andhra and 22 per cent of the Rayalaseema population remains a hurdle. A BJP-TDP-Loksatta alliance is the need of the hour to consolidate upper caste, Backward Caste and swing votes in Seemandhra. Jagan’s support base is like the Bahujan Samaj Party vote base in UP; he needs increments from all other castes to win.


After supporting the division of Andhra Pradesh for political expediency, if the RSS fails to manage a hold in the region, then anarchic and casteist forces could take over both Telangana and Seemandhra. It will have to accommodate regional identities. A monolithic Hindu identity may have to be projected to the outside world to survive as a group in the present geo-politics hostile to Hindus, but internal diversity should never be compromised.


In the long run, bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh may not be an economic disadvantage for both regions in long run, but the Telugu people have lost their political clout and prestige within the Indian union. Their icons now belong to either Telangana or Seemandhra. But this is not the time for disappointment; they now have to strive hard to make both regions prosperous and focus more on their language and culture which has been neglected so far.

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top