As Telangana starts to coil with political tension, the union government finds itself on disconcertingly familiar territory in Andhra Pradesh.
Congress leaders who are from the volatile region have ganged up with mass resignations; in Telangana, a bandh has been called starting tomorrow; and K Chandrasekhara Rao has delivered the latest in a series of incendiary speeches. “Buses and trains will not move,” he warned publically today. “Telangana will be like a furnace from tomorrow. I appeal to the Prime Minister to take immediate steps for formation of separate statehood.”
In 2009, similar threats and an 11-day fast by KCR were juxtaposed with violent protests, many of which saw students taking on the police. The union government gave in to what seemed to be a majority demand for Andhra Pradesh to be bifurcated. In December 2009, the Centre said a new state of Telangana had been sanctioned.
Parties in Andhra Pradesh, however, were whiplashed by leaders from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema – who said they would not allow the bifurcation of the state. And so the Centre tried to rollback its misguided announcement.
Ten Congress MPs – nine from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha – have resigned in protest today in Delhi. It is not a symbolic gesture, they emphasized. “We don’t play gimmicks. I am giving my resign to the Speaker, still people do not believe,” said an indignant Dr K Keshava Rao, a Rajya Sabha member.
But privately, they concede they could be persuaded to change their minds. That flexibility extends to the resignations of 11 ministers in the Andhra Pradesh government as well. “Our resignations are neither to defy the Congress high command nor to create a political or constitutional crisis in the state”, said senior minister K Jana Reddy, before flying to Delhi to meet with Congress leaders. “They are meant only to convey the strong aspirations of Telangana people to the Congress high command as well as the Centre”.
The impetus is two-fold: voters in Telangana are getting restless with the Centre’s indecision about its statehood; and KCR’s reinvigorated campaign which could sway voters into accepting him as the face of their cause.
The Congress’ keenness on extensive discussions with its partymen from Telangana is based largely on formidable math for its government in Andhra Pradesh. Thirty-six Congress MLAs are in queue to quit. Out of 294 seats in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, the Congress currently has 168 seats with the support of its ally, Chiranjeevi’s Prajya Rajyam Party (PRP). But if 36 disgruntled MLAs switch sides, the government starts sliding below the half-way mark of 147.
Thirty-one members of Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) who are members of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly are also supposedly resigning.
Political analysts say that if the bulk resignations do transpire, President’s Rule may have to be considered for Andhra Pradesh.