BJP’s support for a separate Telangana state and its partnership with the TRS, may prove disastrous to the party’s fortunes. The middle class, which is BJP’s main base, has a natural allergy to the disruption and violent agitation that the Telangana movement has brought.
The BJP has traditionally been a weak player in Andhra Pradesh politics, which has been dominated for decades by the Congress and later the struggle between the Congress and the TDP. Being a party generally favoured by traders, traditionalists and the largely inert urban middle class, the BJP could never rise above its low importance in AP politics, which at the macro level has basically become a Reddy-Kamma power struggle with the Congress and the TDP as political manifestations. However, the Telangana movement came as a God sent opportunity for the BJP to improve its presence in the state, as a party that is committed to federalism and already boasting a successful record in helping the formation of new states – Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand.
Even here, the TRS had already assumed political leadership of the Telangana movement, even though the movement predates the formation of the TRS by decades and has many diverse actors. Any new actor, at best, could only play junior partner to the TRS. For the BJP, therefore, the choice was tight – go alone and fail, or join hands with the TRS and claim credit for having helped the formation of a separate Telangana, which seemed an inevitability when the BJP and the TRS cemented closer ties in 2009-10.
Whether the tie up with the TRS will lead to improvements in the BJP’s political fortunes in the state only time will tell but becoming a junior partner to the TRS is leading to disastrous results. Partnering the TRS means the BJP is also partner to the series of violent agitations, mindless bandhs, disruption and vandalism that the Telangana movement has become. The Telangana movement’s image has taken a severe beating among the rich and the poor alike in Hyderabad and other urban centres in the region, exactly where the BJP’s core voter base exists, and has been worsened by the repeated telecasts by TV channels of the recent violent scenes in the AP Assembly where Jaiprakash Narayan of the Lok Satta party was physically assaulted by TRS MLAs, marking the lowest point in AP’s legislative history. How much of an image beating this is becoming for the BJP is not clear, for it is the TRS that hogs all the limelight, but there is a danger that sections of the urban middle class, especially college goers and software wallahs, slowly gravitating towards alternate options such as the Lok Satta – options that do not involve the traditional mix of money and muscle power, corruption and opportunism that they so hate about politics and frequently cite as the reason for their abysmal participation.
In this context, yesterday I found two popular BJP members, Member of Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Poonam Mahajan, the national Vice President of the BJP Yuva Morcha, triumphantly tweeting their support to the Telangana movement. Yesterday was a bandh, one more frustrating bandh in the series of bandhs called by the TRS in the last year and a half. The day before, the city witnessed violence, disruption and severe traffic jams in certain parts due to the OU students Joint Action Committee’s call for “Chalo Assembly.” A few days before that, ugly scenes were witnessed in the AP Assembly due to the behaviour of TRS MLAs. I was at once infuriated at their tweets and shot off this 1600 character tweet (thanks to Tweet Deck’s long tweet feature) to both. I reproduce it here verbatim. It was spontaneous:
@SushmaSwarajBJP @poonam_mahajan As a sympathizer of the BJP, I note with increasing despair as you continue to spoil your relatively positive image in AP by siding with the TRS for the formation of a separate Telangana state. The BJP’s support for Telangana seems to be pure opportunism. If the BJP is really concerned about the welfare of the people of Telangana, it must immediately publicly condemn the TRS which has become an obstacle to the same with its frequent bandhs, violent agitations, goondaism, extortion, and also inducing unemployed young men to commit suicides. To improve your political fortunes in AP, you look the other way as your partner TRS makes a mockery of democracy through its barbaric behaviour in the Assembly [creating a ruckus, standing on desks, tearing governor’s speech, beating Jaiprakash Narayan], vandalism of buses, trains, railway stations and other public property, violent agitations, street fights with the police, using Molotov cocktails against them, imposing bandhs and basically being a menace to the common man, business and industry. What answer does the BJP, which promotes itself as a protector of Indian values and culture, have to the pregnant woman who was in an ambulance and was caught in a traffic jam caused due to the violent agitation by TRS yesterday? [http://bit.ly/dV8x0o] If the BJP does not condemn the TRS and does not withdraw its support to the TRS, it shall lose my vote in the next election, along with those of my friends and family who are equally frustrated by the TRS’s activities. I wish BJP concentrates more on how to win the LS elections in 2014, building the Ram temple at Ayodhya, abolishing Article 370, introducing the Uniform Civil Code, rooting out corruption and malgovernance, and pursuing further economic reforms and development. Yours sincerely.
Not that it would have made any difference but I had to urgently release some steam. Please excuse the cliched language, as it is unavoidable in our public discourse.
The rest of the ‘letter’ must be fairly clear but I must elaborate on what I meant when I said BJP’s support for Telangana is opportunistic. and implied that it may not result in benefits to the welfare of the people of the region. While expressing support to the Telangana movement, the BJP has not come out with a single plan of action or vision for a separate Telangana state. This is a serious disease that afflicts the larger movement for Telangana. Apart from vague pronouncements of building dams and canals, using the mineral wealth of the region, and improving employment by improving their representation in government jobs (a mirage, as the bulk of the employment in the future will come from the private sector), nothing is concretely laid down. As it is, it is a movement that is based more on victimhood and chauvinism, of the regional and the casteist kind, and lacks a sound intellectual foundation even though it is common to see university Professors and sundry “intellectuals” attempt hopelessly to give it an intellectual tint.
While sentiments for a separate state may be understandable considering the region’s backwardness, the movement’s moral strength is considerably weakened by the strategy of violence and disruption that has been adopted. For a large section of the agitators, the formation of the Telangana at any cost seems to be an end in itself, rather than a means to get a better deal for the people of Telangana. There is little realization that all those burning buses and trains, injuries and suicides do not contain the foundations to the bright future that is sought. Rather, they are terrifying premonitions of the kind of environment that awaits the people of Telangana once a separate state is formed.
There is another angle to the Telangana movement that does not seem have been factored in by the BJP. It is an open secret that there is a link up between the TRS and other groups fighting for a separate Telangana, and the Maoists, both united by their self interest. The Maoists, always on the lookout for opporunities to help politicians achieve their political goals in return for bolstering their movement, have found in the Telangana movement an excellent opportunity to stage a comeback in AP, from where they have been literally chased out over the last several years thanks to tough measures from the AP Government. Therefore, red and pink have joined hands and imperceptibly merged. Of course, the TRS which is in it for power and which basically represents the “disenfranchised” sections of the Rao-Reddy elite that missed out on the power and loot that was so far being enjoyed by the Reddys and Kammas under the Congress and the TDP respectively, can hardly be expected to keep its side of the deal and “cede” control to the Maoists, in case a separate Telangana is formed. Even in that case, a violent backlash from the Maoists is inevitable. Either way, it spells disaster for the common people of Telangana, who will yet again be caught in the crossfire between self-appointed saviours. Has the BJP no concern for the stark security situation that awaits a separate Telangana?
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