Congress member of parliament from Nizamabad, Madhu Goud Yaskhi speaks with Governance Now
Trithesh Nandan | March 7, 2014
As an attorney in the United States, Madhu Goud Yakshi’s heart always palpitated for the people of Telanagana. He gave up his law practice in New York after around 3,000 people committed suicide demanding statehood for the region during TDP’s rule in the late 1990s and early 2000s, returned home and dived straight into politics. He fought the elections on a Congress ticket in 2004, was elected from Nizamabad constituency and got engaged with the emotional issue of creation of a Telangana state.
On February 21, Yakshi threw a lavish party at his residence in the national capital when the Telangana bill was passed in Rajya Sabha, paving the way for the country’s 29th state. In a freewheeling interview with Trithesh Nandan on the day the ‘T-dream’ was fructified, Yakshi blames businessmen-MPs from Andhra Pradesh who suppressed the emotions of Telangana region and never developed it.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
Andhra Pradesh has been bifurcated and Telangana has got what people there are calling ‘freedom’. Do you feel free now?
Absolutely; this is like achieving independence. If you recollect our first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s statement, he compared the merger of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh as a ‘marriage’. Speaking in Nizamabad on March 5, 1956, he said, “Ek maasoom bholi-bhali ladki ko ek natkhat ladke ke saath shaadi kiya jaa raha hain; chahe toh woh milke reh sakte hai, ya bichhad sakte hain” [an innocent girl (Telangana) is being married to a clever boy (Andhra); it is up to them whether to continue or get separated].
The people of Telangana were separate during the Nizam’s rule – the administration had separate currency, railways etc, and the medium of instruction was Urdu. It was a different country even during the British rule (and) the Indian National Congress office was not allowed to open in the region. The Madras presidency was well developed and the creation of the state (Telangana) was a struggle of six decades by its people. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that sometimes we have to take tough decisions, (irrespective of) whether it is politically benefit or not…
But there was so much emotional outpouring from both sides. One didn’t see such emotions during separation of states earlier – this time it was out there on the streets, parliament…everywhere.
The state capital was not an issue in other states that saw separation. Hyderabad is a city that has huge tracts of government land available. Some nawabs went to Pakistan during partition and left thousands of acres of land without any documentation. So there is a problem of registration and documentation of such land (but) some crony businessmen from Andhra Pradesh acquired those lands and built their properties without proper documentation. Even late former chief minister Rajshekhar Reddy’s plot in Banjara Hills [an upscale area of Hyderabad] was occupied on such assigned land.
Even Kiran Kumar Reddy’s [who quit as CM on February 19] land there [in Banjara Hills] has been occupied.
These politicians (from Seemandhra), who are big businessmen too, fixed the game and now own property worth $3 billion in Telangana [primarily Hyderabad].
ALSO READ: An ABC on Seemandhra and Telangana
There are apprehensions that property of people originally from Seemandhra and living in Telangana now would be taken away with the creation of the new state. How will you address thoee concerns?
Such fears are completely unfounded and baseless allegations against Telangana. Why will anyone take away properties? Telanagana is the 29th state of the country; we are not a separate country. Hyderabad is a 400-year-old city. People from across the country live there. Again, I would like to quote a statement by Pandit Nehru about Hyderabad. He had said that Hyderabad is mini-Bharat.
No one can take anybody’s land – we function under the same high court and supreme court.
What happens to the apprehension that the Maoist movement will be emboldened after this bifurcation?
There isn’t much fear of the Maoists because the central government schemes have been implemented successfully in the region. Most Naxal-affected areas are in Andhra, and not in Telangana, so that apprehension is not true.
Even the director general of police and the home ministry have announced that the Naxal movement will not get emboldened with the division of the state.
The Naxal issue is a socio-economic and law and order problem, and the UPA government fought with it with a two-pronged approach: development and force. You have to deal with people who believe in spreading violence with force. The biggest land distribution (to the poor) has been done (AP) under Congress governments.
But if people are still fighting for their basic rights even after 60 years, then there is some inherent problem. So we need to address what attracts people to Maoism. You will not address the problem by eliminating individuals. The government has not been able to address those basic questions.
But the crucial question of legacy would remain – the high court, seat of capital for Seemandhra… they all appear to be vexed issues.
Law minister Kapil Sibal has addressed this question in Rajya Sabha. There are provisions on how to tackle such contentious issues. There is a provision in Article 34 for power to be transferred to the governor for a limited time, where law and order and capital would be the same.
How do you react to critics’ contention that bifurcation would leave Seemandhara region poorer?
Seemandhara is the most developed region – there are packages and incentives that the region got from the Centre. They have the longest sea coast in the country; they have got minerals, gas reserves and three international airports. Since independence, 20 corporations have been set up in Seemandhara region, while Telengana has got only three. Every district in Seemandhara has medical and engineering colleges.
Aren't you (Telengana) demanding special packages?
Yes, we are demanding it. The next government will have to look into it. Even my district (Nizamabad) is very backward.
It is said that Telangana’s creation has saved the Congress party from a whitewash in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. What is you assessment?
Politically, yes, the Congress has chances of benefitting from creation of the new state. But politics is not the consideration to divide the state. When Congress makes a commitment, it also implements it. The division was the commitment given to the people of Telangana – whether it will benefit the party in the general elections was never a consideration. If that was the issue, then it (bifurcation) wouldn't have been done because there are 25 Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhara.
We can win more seats in Telangana, but the party is hopeful of winning seats even in Seemandhra because the cadre is quite strong in the region.
There has always been a question mark on the functioning of smaller states. Now the state is created will you be different from other such states and create a role model?
In the smaller state, development is faster. When Punjab was divided into three parts - there have been development in those areas. It develops much faster than the bigger state. See Uttar Pradesh, the state has given maximum prime ministers but it is still a backward state. In West Bengal, 33 percent of Muslims live in pathetic conditions.
In that scenario, will you support demands for new states like Vidharba and Gorkhaland?
I will answer this question in other way. Had the Telengana not solved, in that case, people of Vidharba and Gorkhaland would have given up their rights. You have to see the reasoning before creation of new states that there is no economic issue, border dispute. These are basic requirements for the state to be formed. If those barometres are fulfilled, government can look into these matters. Vidharba has to be a separate state because there was recommendation for Vidharba and Telengana for the separate state. The federal structure will be strengthened if you meet aspirations of people. So, we need to see why people are agitating? There is something wrong in development and governance because these regions may be neglected.
(An edited version of the interview appeared in the March 1-15 print issue of the magazine)