End-stage mistakes grab disproportionately greater attention than blunders at the beginning. With the Congress and the Central government bungling at almost every stage in the handling of the agitation for a new state of Telangana, the mismanagement of the vote on the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill should have been no surprise. The chaos and confusion, and the blackout of television coverage, on the day the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha all pale into insignificance when seen in the context of the larger failures to find a political consensus, and to reduce differences over crucial issues in the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Whether it was due to a technical glitch, or a “tactical glitch” as the Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, described it, the blackout of coverage by Lok Sabha TV was only a minor part in the Telangana endgame. Flip-flops and cynical political manoeuvring were part of the Congress strategy right from the beginning on the Telangana issue. Petty electoral calculations ensured that the party leadership led the government in the decision-making process. Indeed, too much was left to the very end as part of a deliberate strategy of buying time and averting a debate and discussion in Parliament. The highly charged spectacle of violence and disruption in the Lok Sabha over the Telangana Bill in the last few days is the culmination of the cumulative mistakes of the Congress and the Centre.

If the Congress can take any credit from these sordid happenings it is in the browbeating and arm-twisting of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Although the BJP had a pronounced pro-Telangana stance even before the Congress committed itself to the bifurcation, the party resorted to doublespeak on the issue in an attempt to discomfit the Congress. But later the Congress managed to put the BJP in a fix, and eventually to lend support to the Bill. The two parties appeared to have read each other’s mind very well: to blame the other for any failure to pass the Bill. The BJP blinked first. The party, which did not have substantial political stakes in Andhra Pradesh, was hoping the Congress would alienate both pro-Telangana and Seemandhra sections if it failed to push the Bill through. But there was also the danger that the Congress might turn around and blame the BJP for its doublespeak and allowing the Bill to lapse. In the end, the two parties appear to have decided to share the credit for creating Telangana rather than blame each other for failing to have it passed. Irrespective of how the two parties manoeuvre the Bill through the Rajya Sabha, there is very little comfort to be had from such bipartisanship.

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