Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks in Parliament on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has triggered a political slugfest in Telangana with both the ruling TRS and opposition Congress going all out to cash in on the sentiment.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has succeeded in sustaining the Telangana sentiment ever since forming the first government in the state in 2014, was quick to seize the opportunity.
From seeking an apology from Narendra Modi to staging protests across the state to moving a privilege motion against him in the Parliament, the TRS went into an overdrive to capitalize.
The Prime Minister’s comments gave an opportunity to the TRS to step up its attack on him for the alleged bias against Telangana and thus corner BJP’s state unit which has been trying to project itself as the only viable alternative.
Since the Prime Minister had made the comments while lashing out at Congress over the manner in which it bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, the opposition party too tried to use it to its advantage. While slamming Modi for his remarks, the Congress leaders tried to project this as a proof in support of their claim that the credit for carving out Telangana state goes to their party.
Both the TRS and Congress accused BJP of betraying Telangana and asked its state leaders how they will face the people of the state. Political analysts say the attacks by both the parties will make things difficult for the BJP.
The TRS is trying to derive political mileage by cornering the BJP over what it describes as an insult to people of Telangana. The Congress, while slamming BJP, is claiming Modi’s comments are an admission of the fact that it was the Congress that created Telangana.
Modi, on February 8 raked up the bifurcation issue while targeting Congress party while replying to the debate on motion of thanks to President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha. He alleged that Congress acted against the federal spirit.
“Andhra Pradesh (undivided) played an important role in the Congress forming government at the Centre, but the Congress divided the state in a hasty manner,” said Modi. “Mics were switched off and ‘mirchi’ (pepper) spray was used and there was no discussion during the passage of the bifurcation Bill,” he added.
Though he asserted that he was not against the creation of Telangana, TRS and Congress both accused him of insulting people of the state and 1,200 youth who laid down their lives for separate state.
The Prime Minister said the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government created three states (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand) in the most peaceful manner.
Modi, during his speech in Parliament, also remarked that the two states were suffering even today because of the manner in which the Congress bifurcated Andhra Pradesh
Both the TRS and Congress leaders asked Modi to explain why Vajpayee government failed to create Telangana state though BJP had promised this before 1999 elections. “The BJP had passed a resolution at Kakinada in 1998 promising two states for one vote,” recalled TRS working president and state minister K.T. Rama Rao.
“Utterly disgraceful of you Mr Prime Minister for repeatedly insulting the decades of spirited struggle & sacrifices of the people of Telangana,” said KTR, as Rama Rao is popularly known. He also demanded that the Prime Minister apologise to people of Telangana.
The Congress leaders too reacted strongly. State Congress chief A. Revanth Reddy said if the BJP-led NDA had created Telangana state after coming to power in 1999, lives of 1,200 Telangana youth would have been saved.
“Our leader Sonia Gandhi created Telangana state despite knowing very well that this will cause political damage to the Congress party,” he said.
A day after PM’s comments, protests erupted in Telangana as ministers and legislators came on the streets to lead the charge, condemning Modi’s remarks and setting afire effigies of the BJP.
This was the second time after 2014 that TRS men staged a protest on an issue related to creation of Telangana state. Immediately after formation of Telangana on June 2, 2014, the state had observed a shutdown on a call given by TRS to protest merger of eight mandals (blocks) of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh.
“The Modi government had overnight handed over the mandals to Andhra Pradesh and also took away lower Sileru power project. Did Modi consult Telangana? Where was his federal spirit then?,” asked Telangana’s finance minister T. Harish Rao.
The TRS leaders sharpened the attacks on the Modi government for doing nothing for Telangana in the last eight years. They said he was unable to digest the fact that Telangana is developing at a rapid pace and emerging a model for the entire country despite not getting any help from the Centre.
Harish Rao pointed out that the Centre went back on all its commitments made to Telangana in Bifurcation Act. “BJP has been repeatedly betraying Telangana,” he said.
Political analysts say the PM’s comments may prove counter-productive to his own party in Telangana
“PM with his remarks on bifurcation has only disturbed the growing harmony between the people of the two Telugu states. Time and again Modi made remarks which would not let people of Andhra Pradesh forget the pain they suffered in 2014. And this time, his rhetoric is surely going to irritate people in Telangana. While BJP has limited stakes in AP, the party’s prospects in Telangana will get affected with such unsavory statements by the top leader,” said analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
He pointed out that eight years since bifurcation, both the state are trying to resolve many issues bothering administration and people of both the states. From water distribution to jobs allocation, both the state governments have been striving hard to ensure all complexities are resolved in an amicable manner. “Though the people of Andhra Pradesh believe they have been cheated by political parties, and the then union government, they seemed to be moving forward on various fronts.”
The analyst say if Prime Minister thinks Andhra Pradesh got a raw deal in 2014, he had an opportunity to correct it over the past eight years, and still has another two years to do so. “His government’s actions on Capital city/cities, Polavaram, Visakha Railway Zone, proposed Kadapa Steel Plant and many more are against the interests of AP. Instead of raking up issues which would cause more harm by dividing people, PM from his position of power must act to bring people and regions together,” said Raghavendra Reddy.
He believes that TRS and Congress in Telangana got opportunity to paint BJP as a party against the youngest state in India. “While TRS has already moved privilege motion against PM in both houses of the Parliament, we will have to see how effectively TRS and Congress will take the issue to the people,” he added.