Mainstream Weekly

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2010 > Centre’s Changing Strategy

Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 10, February 27, 2010

Centre’s Changing Strategy

Monday 1 March 2010, by Nikhil Chakravartty


The crisis over Telangana which has overtaken New Delhi has been the creation of the Congress leaders themselves. On one hand Dr Channa Reddy’s political frustration has led him to ignite the flames of regional chauvinism, and it is this that has stirred up the present round of violence in Telangana. On the other hand, Sri Brahmananda Reddy’s over-bearing cock-sureness deceived the Centre in a manner that few Chief Ministers have been able to achieve so far.

Sri Brahmananda Reddy seems to have banked too much on the fact that as the Prime Minister’s sole surviving pillar of support in the South, he could carry on without bothering too much about the mounting discontent in Andhra over his mishandling of the situation. It is known that more than once in the past six months, Sri Reddy has chosen to ignore the Union Home Minister’s warnings about the deteriorating situation; these warnings, based on Central Intelligence reports, were of course never made public, thereby marking the differentiated treatment on the part of the Centre towards a Congress-run State Government and the Left-led governments in Kerala and West Bengal. His persistent theme in New Delhi was that it was merely a case of law and order and he was confident of dealing with it. His only complaint was that certain Marwari Big Money (the Birlas, it is learnt) and US under-cover elements were backing the agitation, particularly among the students.

Even during his last visit to the Capital, Sri Brahmananda Reddy refused to look at the Telangana crisis as a political issue and not a mere law-and-order problem. At that late hour, he held out against conceding statutory powers for the Telangana Regional Committee—a concession he is reported to have made now. Actually, when Sri Reddy left New Delhi in the morning of June 4, he was under the confident impression that there would be no Central intervention in his own kingdom. Only he agreed to Sri Chavan’s proposed visit to Hyderabad last week-end.

Sri Brahmananda Reddy seems to have calculated that his continuation in office fitted in with the Prime Minister’s interests, and so, whatever happened in Andhra, there could possibly be no effective move to dislodge him. The power-alignments at the Centre have been such that any setback for Sri Brahmananda Reddy and consequent advance for Sri Sanjiva Reddy’s group would mean accretion of strength for the Syndicate vis-a-vis Smt Gandhi. Since at the present crucial phase of power-politics at the Centre, the Prime Minister could not afford to let the Syndicate make any headway, Sri Brahmananda Reddy’s calculations were no doubt valid.

But the snag in these calculations has been the magnitude of the crisis itself. The adminis-tration in Andhra has come to a virtual standstill: Sri Brahmananda Reddy’s smug assurance that the agitation concerned mainly the two cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad had to be dismissed, as reports poured in of mounting violence. Perhaps the first break in the Centre’s reliance on Sri Brahmananda Reddy’s assessment came in the afternoon of June 4, when soon after getting warning reports from Opposition sources about the situation fast going out of control, Smt Gandhi made the air dash to Hyderabad and held the marathon round of talks overnight. This was the first clear indication that Sri Brahmananda Reddy’s stock had begun to fall in New Delhi.

As for Sri Chavan, he never had any doubt that the Andhra Chief Minister had been under-estimating the gravity of the Telangana crisis. When Sri Chavan left for Hyderabad on Saturday, he did not carry any formula with him: only he kept two points in mind. First, there should be prompt economic regeneration of the nine districts of Telangana to bring them on to a balanced level with the remaining eleven districts of Andhra; secondly, there has to be a measure of autonomy for the Telangana region within the Andhra State itself. Sri Chavan’s main purpose however was to force open a dialogue with all the sections—from Dr Channa Reddy to the Communists. And to a fairly good measure, he seemed to have succeeded in this limited mission.

As an interim measure, the suggestion for President’s Rule seems to have gained considerable ground in the last few days. The immediate justification for it could be the obvious break-down of law and order in the State, while this might at the same time mollify those inside the Congress who, for factional reasons, would like to Sri Brahmananda Reddy out of office. More important, this could provide a breathing space before a clear-cut policy could be hammered out. Almost as a corollary to that has come up the demand for a round table so that a sensible consensus could be arrived at.

The fact that neither Sri Brahmananda Reddy’s assessment of the situation nor his capacity to control it is any longer taken as the last word at the Centre, the possibility of President’s Rule can hardly be dismissed as part of his opponents’ wishful thinking.

Between the time these lines are being written and when they reach the readers, the Cabinet-level assessment of Telangana would be over, although the final decision on the steps to be followed might have to wait till the Congress Working Committee meets on June 19-21. However, the new element in the situation is that Smt Gandhi’s original stand of going almost by the advice and assessment of Sri Brahmananda Reddy seems to have been abandoned, and it is likely that in this crucial issue, Sri Chavan’s might turn out to be the decisive role.

A significant development, no doubt, in the politics of New Delhi.

On the issue of Kashmir, an impression has long been nurtured in many circles in both New Delhi and Srinagar that Syed Mir Qasim enjoys the confidence of the highest quarters at the Centre. This has not only annoyed many in Sri Sadiq’s camp but has made things difficult for the Centre as well, since there is scope for misunderstanding with those who are directly responsible for the administration in this strategically-important State.

The Prime Minister however personally dispelled all such misgivings during her recent talk with the Kashmir Chief Minister. The position today is that the New Delhi authorities would from now on largely go by the line pursued by Sri Sadiq, while they would certainly urge the State Government leaders as also the State Congress leaders to hold together, particularly at a time when the Plebiscite Front is switching over from the line of boycott to one of participation in the elections.

While there is recognition in New Delhi about Syed Mir Qasim’s dynamism and sincerity of purpose, it is generally felt that he made the mistake in not extending the hand of cooperation to Sri Sadiq’s group during the crucial campaign for the recent byelection contests in which for the first time the Plebiscite Front entered the lists. In fact, this has weakened Syed Mir Qasim since it has given a handle to those in Sri Sadiq’s camp who are out to undermine Syed Mir Qasim’s position as of one not being indispensable for the Congress in Kashmir. In this situation, New Delhi could only stress the urgency of unity between the two groups in the State Congress. The general impression in the Capital is that in the current tussle, it is Sri Sadiq’s group which has largely won: it has entrenched itself in the Congress organisation more effectively than at any time in the past. At the same time, the stress is being laid here that there should be no witch-hunt and that Syed Mir Qasim’s energy and experience should also be harnessed in the common endeavour of strengthening the secular forces in Kashmir.

The reason why Sri Sadiq has been able to carry the day is that his policy of what has come to be known as “liberalisation” has paid. It is to be recognised that Sri Sadiq has played a very decisive role in the evolution of the policy towards Sheikh Abdullah. The decision to release the Sheikh and to offer him full civil liberties despite some of his rather intemperate pronouncements, was taken by Sri Sadiq himself. This policy met with resistence in many important circles both in New Delhi and Srinagar which stuck to the traditional opinion that any concession of civil liberties to Sheikh Abdullah and the Plebiscite Front would give a fresh lease of trouble in Kashmir. Against this Sri Sadiq’s policy has throughout been that Sheikh Abdullah’s challenge has to be met politically and not merely through administrative actions In fact, there has been greater amount of political ferment in the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir in the last two years than at any time in the last twenty years. The decision of the Plebiscite Front to contest elections has vindicated Sri Sadiq’s policy, since it makes it clear that from the position of total boycott, Sheikh Abdullah’s followers, at least the major section of them, have been veering round to a policy of reconciliation, of accepting at least in practice the reality of Kashmir being part of India. No doubt, the developments in Pakistan have had a sobering effect on them, for these isolated those who are known to be advocates of the policy that Kashmir should go to Pakistan. Yet the statesman-like approach to this very delicate question on the part of Sri Sadiq has produced positive results in terms of political gains for India. The success of the State Congress in the by-elections rebuts to a large measure the Pakistani propaganda that the people of Kashmir are held down by Indian bayonets and the present Kashmir Government is a puppet of New Delhi.

It would however be a mistake to think that the crisis in Kashmir has passed off. There is need for a large measure of mutual reconciliation on the part of the two major groups in Kashmir Congress and it is known that many friends as well as political leaders both in Kashmir and from outside have been straining themselves to bring about a rapprochement between Sri Sadiq’s followers and those of Syed Mir Qasim.

The main point to note, however, is that the settlement in Kashmir today is not being dictated from New Delhi; it is being worked out through strains and tensions, through debate and acrimony, in the Valley of Kashmir itself.

(Mainstream, June 14, 1969)

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.