T-grip lost, Cong equally to blame for pepper spray in parliament

The party brass cannot escape guilt with expressions of shock, sorry and melancholy at the state of affairs – both in parliament, and in Andhra Pradesh

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | February 13, 2014


Telangana MPs protest outside parliament.
Telangana MPs protest outside parliament.

When Sushma Swaraj, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, said on Thursday (February 13) that the Congress is “solely responsible for what has happened in the house", she could have been nearer the truth than most of her party leaders going ‘hear hear’ or Congress critics would have believed.
 
The Congress brass may or may not have apprehended its MP from Vijayawada, L Rajagopal for using pepper spray as a weapon inside the house soon as home minister Sushilkumar Shinde introduced the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, which aims to bifurcate the existing state by carving out a separate one in the form of Telangana, but what is beyond doubt is that the Congress let the issue come to this pass.
 
Having kept the Telangana statehood issue in cold storage for years, to pull it out suddenly may have been politically gainful – though it’s looking more like a suicidal resolve with each passing day – but the party should have remembered that most last-moment decisions taken in a tearing hurry have this bad habit of leaving behind a trail of tears.
 
Aside from the fact that the Congress botched up the whole Telangana-Seemandhra issue – and botched it up majestically at that – if its antenna was tuned in to reality of real politic, instead of counting gains and losses of each politically expedient decision on one hand and counting the calendar dates till announcement of the poll dates (when all such decisions would have to die down) with the other, the party should also have anticipated trouble.
 
There were indications – in fact even intelligence inputs of possible self-immolation attempt by some MPs from Seemandhra, according to reports – galore that T in parliament on Thursday meant not just Telangana but trouble, and with a capital T to boot. According to reports, security had been upped to such unprecedented scales that there was a bar on giving out parliament passes to people with south Indian-sounding names, as the Times of India reported.
 
It is no one’s case that the law should have been changed and MPs entering parliament on Thursday body-searched – though there is little reason why people’s representatives should be barred from a routine that people go through every day, especially after Thursday’s ruckus – but the soul-searching should have started a long time ago for the Congress party.
 
As HRD minister Pallam Raju, who comes from the Seemandhra region, said on Wednesday, while reacting to prime minister Manmohan Singh’s remark that his “heart bleeds” at the sight of ruckus created by MPs from Seemandhra, "I do not think the comment is fair just to isolate what is happening today. It has been happening in the house. Certainly, I think there has been a failing somewhere.”
 
And that “failing” is lies at the core of the Telangana trouble.
 
Having taken the decision to bifurcate AP, the ruling party had taken up the task of addressing discontent and rage in the Telangana region. There was little trouble fomenting in Seemandhra at the time. On the political table, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) looked a picture of its past; Jaganmohan Reddy of YSR Congress was busy picking public sympathy by encashing his jail term; the BJP looking for possible allies among all non-Congress parties in the state; and the Congress hoping to pick up a fair number of seats from two parts of the state that sent most number of MPs for the party in the outgoing Lok Sabha.
 
A few months on, the TDP is a resurgence, looking more like a former ruling party; YSR Congress is eyeing to mop up all Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra region; the BJP looking very confident of a good show (and a good ally in the state); and the Congress looking at the distinct possibility of drawing a blank.
 
Worse, it has left not just a bloodied Telangana but what looks ominously like a bloodier Seemandhra.
 
The blame should go partly to the two Congress governments – Manmohan Singh’s in New Delhi and Kiran Kumar Reddy’s in Hyderabad – for general inaction and lack of strategizing to make people and leaders from Rayalaseema and coastal AP feel more empowered, and the party in-charges for the state – Ghulam Nabi Azad, who toured through the swathes and evidently achieved little, and his successor, Digvijay Singh, who let the trouble multiply a few times over.
 
Suspended Vijayawada MP Rajagopal should be punished, if law so deems, but the Congress brass cannot escape guilt with expressions of shock, sorry and melancholy at the state of affairs – both in parliament, and in Andhra Pradesh at present and what looks ominous for future.
 
 

 

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