K Chandrasekhara Rao, during his loquacious best, wittingly or unwittingly, blurted out a story as part of a public meeting in Warangal Lok Sabha electioneering on Tuesday that actually turned the wheel of his political fortunes and that changed the direction of the fate of united Andhra Pradesh. If all of us were under the impression that the 1969 agitation was the inspiration for a separate Telangana agitation, we are indeed thoroughly mistaken. It is Leader of the Opposition in Telangana Assembly K Jana Reddy who actually had triggered the whole thing, according to the Chief Minister.
Jana Reddy, who owns the record of being the longest-serving minister in united Andhra Pradesh in the Governments headed by several Chief Ministers, sulked on being denied a Cabinet berth by Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy during his second stint as the Chief Minister in 1992. Angered by the denial, the Nalgonda strongman had stoked rebellion by espousing the cause of a separate Telangana and launched Telangana Forum. Sensing trouble looming large, Vijayabhaskara Reddy immediately accommodated Jana Reddy in his Cabinet and endowed him with the portfolio of Agriculture, within 20 days of the latter making noise of a separate State.
Having achieved his goal, Jana Reddy simply dropped the slogan of a separate Telangana and the forum like a hot potato. The purported proposal of a movement had gone haywire. “I was an MLA in the Telugu Desam Party at that time. Jana Reddy had actually invited me for the Forum meeting. I refused to go saying that he had set up the forum for his ministerial berth. And, I proved right,” quipped KCR, who made a point.
But, what KCR did not say, but what crossed the minds of analysts, was that if KCR’s agitation was an action reconstruction? History repeated itself, but with a difference. Chandrababu Naidu also “could not accommodate” KCR in his Cabinet in 1999 owing to “caste equations”. But where he had gone wrong was when he “ill-treated” a senior leader of KCR’s stature by having him elected to the post of Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. Had he been made the Speaker, at least, things could have been different.
KCR, a natural leader, could not take the humiliation lying down. He used the power tariff hike as a ploy to spit fire on Naidu and walked out of the TDP. He launched Telangana Rashtra Samithi in March 2001 and the rest is history. KCR proudly claims that whether this ‘bakkodu’ (man with lean physique) can pull the agitation through was a doubt that haunted many a people. “But, the agitation took a proper shape and was taken to its logical end.”
So, the bottomline of the story is that KCR had taken cue from Jana Reddy and floated the TRS. Had Chandrababu Naidu emulated Vijayabhaskara Reddy and granted the wish of KCR by inducting the latter into the Cabinet, he would not have taken the agitation forward. Chandrababu Naidu misread the strengths of KCR or was over-confident following his triumph in the elections, in association with the BJP, that nobody could touch him even with a bargepole.
Had Naidu budged, things would have been completely different. What would have happened? I leave it to the imagination of the readers.