Telangana episode a warning to Sangh Parivar

  • By Krishna Arjun
  • March 2014
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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.

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