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Telangana Story : Three Men and a State

Posted on: October 7, 2012

Preparations are in full swing in the white three-storey house in Hyderabad’s tony Banjara Hills. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief Kalvakuntla Chandrasekar Rao or KCR is on his way back home. Roses have been prettily arranged in his living room. His favourite tomato dal and spicy chicken curry have been prepared. As Rao steps out of his white Innova, thousands of supporters welcome him with shouts of ‘Jai Telangana.’

 

 

 

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Around 12 kilometres away in a somewhat rundown apartment in Adarh Nagar’s new MLA quarters, a bespectacled man sips tea as he talks to a group of men. Professor Muddasani Kodandaram Reddy, the convener of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), is charting out its next course of action. The TJAC is a collective of 20 pro-Telangana non-political groups and three political parties — the TRS, Bharatiya Janata Party and CPI(M-L) New Democracy

 

 

 

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In his bungalow ‘Hemlatha’, Kavuru Sambasiva Rao, the five-time Congress MP from Eluru, is attending to guests. He looks relaxed and assures his colleagues who represent Seemandhra — a name carved out of Rayalseema and Andhra –that the Centre will not grant statehood to Telangana.

 

 

 

 

Meet the three men rowing a boat called Telangana. KCR and Kodandaram, both 58, seek to guide it to a new shore. Rao, 69, is trying to push it back to the dock.

 

 

 

KCR is the political force that spearheads the movement, Kodandaram is its non-political face and Rao its aggressive foe.

 

 

 

Throughout September, they were camping in Delhi, where KCR and Kodandaram met top Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Vayalar Ravi and Oscar Fernandes. Kodandaram also met home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Rao lobbied with the same batch of leaders and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

 

 

Demands for Telangana – which the Centre merged with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956 — first came up in 1969. The people of Telangana felt they were being marginalised in the new state.

 

Both sides have their arguments. Those supporting Telangana – a 114,840-sq-km region stretching from Adilabad in the north and Mahbubnagar in the south with a population of3.5 crore –believe a new state will bring development to an area that has been traditionally backward. Those against feel that losing the capital of Hyderabad will lead to untold losses and further unrest.

 

 

 

 

“KCR is demanding a separate state on the sentiments of the people, which is illogical. For the socio-economic development of the region, the Centre can form a Telangana territorial council,” says Rao, as he bites into a fluffy idli for breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

The owner of the Progressive Constructions Limited and Hyderabad’s super-speciality Medwin hospital believes that if Telangana is granted, there will be calls for a separate Rayalseema and perhaps even a division of coastal and north Andhra. “We will not allow any division of Andhra Pradesh,” he stresses.

 

 

 

But KCR, MP from Mahbubnagar, is all ready for a fight. Belonging to the warrior community of Velama, he is known to be a good political strategist and has offered to merge his party with the Congress if it accepts Telangana.

 

 

 

“TRS was formed to get a separate statehood. Once it is achieved, there is no need for the party to exist,” says KCR’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha.

 

 

 

Realpolitics is at play as well. The Congress may be in electoral trouble in 2014.  “In the Andhra region, the rise of (ex-Congressman) Jagan Mohan Reddy will work against the Congress. If the Congress doesn’t announce a separate state by the year-end, it will be impossible for the party to win any seats even in Telangana,” a Congress MP worries.

 

 

On the other hand, some believe the strong base of the TSR in the 10 districts of Telangana could help the Congress win 16 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections if the two parties work together.

 

 

 

But Rao, who represents a team of Seemandhra Congress MPs while lobbying with the Centre, rejects the contention. The Gandhi family loyalist has been assuring the High Command of a sure shot win for the party.

 

 

 

Kodandaram, on the other hand, is seemingly unperturbed. The professor of political science at Osmania University — now on a sabbatical — is more concerned about mobilising masses.

 

 

 

A farmer’s son from Adilabad, Kodandaram was active in the civil liberties movement of the 80s. “Kodandaram is an honest intellectual who feels for the cause but is not a strategist who can get anything substantial out of the Centre,” says political analyst K. Nageshwar.

 

 

 

Kodandaram came into the limelight in 2009 when KCR went on an indefinite hunger strike. When the fast entered its 11th day, then union home minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament the process for the “formation of Telangana” had begun. But the move was followed by a mass resignation of Congress MLAs from Seemandhra, forcing the party to retract. It constituted a committee headed by Justice Sri Krishna to look into the issue.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, KCR floated his own channel T-News and set up the TJAC to mobilise popular support. Kodandaram was asked to head it. He believes it was his “clean” image as a teacher that prompted the party to seek him out. “When politicians say something, the middle class sees it with suspicion. When teachers say something, they believe it,” Kodandaram sresses.

 

 

 

But political insiders believe not all is well within the TJAC. There are rumours of a rift between Kodandaram and KCR – sparked by an assembly by-election in Mahbubnagar this year when the local JAC unit supported the BJP which won the seat.

 

 

 

Sources say KCR was also against a Telangana rally called by the TJAC on September 30, as it was organised when he was negotiating with the Centre. KCR did not participate in the march but his son Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao and nephew Thanneru Harish Rao – both MLAs – were there, apart from Kavitha.

 

 

TRS members shrug off talks of a rift. “He has organised bigger meetings than this,” says a senior TRS member.

 

 

A graduate in Telugu literature, KCR’s fine oratory skills laced with folklore have always pulled crowds. “He speaks in the local dialect to connect with the people,” says political scientist G. Haragopal.

 

 

 

 

Everyone agrees that KCR is the sustained political force behind the Telangana movement – a demand that he has been voicing ever since he broke off from the Telugu Desam Party and floated the TRS in 2001.

 

 

 

Some in the TJAC, however, believe that KCR has been making “false” promises. “He has often announced specific dates for Telangana’s formation. But he has not been able to achieve anything. This is eroding his credibility,” says a TJAC member.

 

 

 

There is also speculation that KCR, who suffers from diabetes, wants to exit from local politics and is eyeing a bigger role at the Centre. But Kavitha, who is managing the media for KCR, stresses that he has not expressed any such desire so far. But he is a reticent man who keeps his thoughts to himself, she adds.

 

 

 

Rao too has decided to keep a low profile for the time being. “There is no need for further talks with the Centre as of now,” he holds.

 

 

Meanwhile, Kodandaram is busy reading books on civil society and its relationship with political parties. “It will help us work in tandem with parties,” smiles Kodandaram.

 

 

Telangana’s three Ks are taking a breather – only so that they can come back with more air in their lungs.

 

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