Sunday, December 20, 2009

did sonia error on telangana?

Did Sonia err on Telangana?

With almost all of 2009 gone, a visit to a barber’s shop in the second half of December gives one a chance to take the weight off the feet, close
the eyes and reflect. The mind invariably dwells on the non-stop agitations for and against Telangana and one wonders whether things would have been different if AP chief minister Y S Rajashekhara Reddy (YSR) had not been killed in that helicopter crash on September 2. The stop-gap arrangement which the Congress high command made in the wake of YSR’s demise has boomeranged. K Rosaiah’s habit of deferring to the high command on every issue has not worked.

Sonia Gandhi’s December 9 birthday-gift in the form of the Union home minister’s midnight announcement of Central approval for the creation of Telangana has sparked off a virtual conflagration in not just AP but in other parts of the country like Bengal where the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is emulating the Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader K C Chandrashekhara Rao (KCR) by combining an indefinite fast with a region-wise bandh.

In retrospect, it seems as if Sonia Gandhi would have done well to emulate her mother-in-law when it came to responding to the agitation for a separate state of Telangana. Indira Gandhi never allowed the 1970s Telangana agitation to degenerate into a total collapse of law and order. At some stage, she even took the wind out of the sail of the agitation by appointing the movement’s main leader as the governor of Uttar Pradesh.

I happened to be at the railway station in Hyderabad when a special saloon was attached to the late-night train taking the newly-appointed UP governor to Lucknow. Some 32 months ago, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was quoted as saying that his grandmother had responded to the threat from Pakistan by creating Bangladesh and that she would never have allowed the demolition of Babri Masjid to take place. It is a pity that Rahul did not remind his mom about how his grandmother had tackled the Telangana agitation!

There are reports that Rosaiah is planning to quit as AP CM in a bid to defuse the situation. That leading TV news-channels have spelt defuse as diffuse only adds to the irony of a situation where Rosaiah had been chosen to succeed YSR on the grounds that he was a seasoned administrator!

What AP wanted was a leader with a firm but deft touch but what the state got instead was quite the reverse going by media reports that KCR wanted to end the indefinite fast earlier but that the state police angered him by leaking a video of him sipping a juice and that he then decided that the time for half measures was over!

And so what if these reports are as credible as the one that Rosaiah had the administrative wisdom and experience to take over from YSR as the CM of the only state in south India where the Congress is in power! The year 2009 also saw the UPA being re-elected. However, the mess in AP proves that winning an election is not the same as good governance. Retaining power is the prelude to governing well and it’s what you do with a mandate that counts