TDP continues its hide and seek on Telangana

    By Mohammed Shafeeq, IANS,

    Hyderabad : All political parties in Andhra Pradesh have taken a clear stand on the proposed bifurcation of the state but the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) remains an exception.

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    Harping on the slogan of “equality”, the TDP is refusing to take a stand either in favour of a separate Telangana state or “samaikyandhra (united Andhra). With an eye on the 2014 general and state elections, the TDP is avoiding a clear stand for fear of losing public support in Telangana or Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra).

    The Congress at the national level decided to carve out a separate Telangana while its leaders in the state remained divided along regional lines. The YSR Congress party, which was earlier favouring division, has now taken a u-turn to demand ‘samaikyandhra’ or united Andhra.

    The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which was initially opposed to bifurcation, has now accepted the centre’s decision as a fait accompli. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) want a separate Telangana state. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is opposed to the state’s division.

    The TDP had supported the demand for a separate Telangana in 2008. However, the July 30 decision of the Congress and the Oct 3 decision of the union cabinet to carve out Telangana and the subsequent protests in Seemandhra landed the principal opposition party in a quandary.

    The TDP has come under fire in both the regions from its political rivals. In Seemandhra, the party is facing criticism for not speaking in favour of “samaikyandhra” while in Telangana it is being seen as a party opposed to the people’s sentiments for a separate state.

    YSR Congress leader Ambati Rambabu pointed out that it was the TDP’s letter to the centre which led to the bifurcation decision. “Why don’t you take back that letter and say that you stand for samaikyandhra,” Rambabu asked Naidu.

    Though the centre has intensified its efforts for bifurcation and the separate state is likely to become a reality from the New Year, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu remained tightlipped as to what he wants. He even undertook a “Telugu atmagaurava yatra” or Telugu self-respect yatra in Seemandhra and went on an indefinite fast in the national capital without clearly saying whether he wants bifurcation or not.

    Naidu faced embarrassing moments on several occasions when media pressed him for his stand but he merely said he is for justice and equality to all Telugu people.

    The former chief minister believes the Congress is dividing the state for political gains. He alleged that the Congress is using TRS in Telangana and YSR Congress in Seemandhra for political mileage.

    Naidu also said the Congress is going ahead with the bifurcation process in a unilateral manner without holding any talks with stakeholders from Telangana and Seemandhra. Reiterating this, the party stayed away from the meeting convened by the Group of Ministers (GoM) this week while seven parties sent their representatives.

    Naidu, instead, wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking his intervention and direction to the centre to meet the stakeholders of Seemandhra and Telangana before proceeding further on bifurcation. Though hailing from Rayalaseema, Naidu has been holding meetings with party leaders from both the regions to take them into confidence.

    Political observers say Naidu is playing his cards carefully. Having lost two successive elections, the 2014 polls will be a do or die battle for him and his party.

    One of the most experienced politician in the state, Naidu is the longest serving chief minister (1995-2004). He also served as leader of the opposition for 10 years. He also played a key role in the national politics during the rule of the United Front and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

    He is aware of the fact that despite the party losing several key leaders in Telangana to TRS, it remained a strong cadre-based outfit. It has strong base at the grassroots level across the state.

    “The TDP’s victory in the coming election is a historic necessity for the future of the state,” Naidu told a brainstorming session here a couple of days ago.

    Naidu seems to be adopting a wait and watch approach while avoiding a clear stand. Though his strategy has so far not paid any dividends for the party, only time will tell if this will succeed in the 2014 elections.

    (Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at [email protected])