Telangana issue puts Naidu in a tight spot

S. Nagesh Kumar

TDP facing its biggest crisis after 1995 with senior leaders backing statehood for Telangana

HYDERABAD: It is now the turn of the Telugu Desam to be caught in the throes of infighting over the Telangana issue just as the Congress is slowly recovering from the blows dealt by dissenting seniors.

A deep fissure has developed in the party after senior leader T. Devender Goud made no secret of his discontent over the failure of the five-member core committee in enabling the party to take a categorical stand favouring separate Statehood at its Vizianagaram meeting.

Diktat defied

His unhappiness coupled with public statements by senior leaders like Kadiam Srihari, Ch. Rajeshwara Rao and E. Peddi Reddi backing Telangana in defiance of Mr. N Chandrababu Naidu’s diktat has created the biggest crisis after the revolt against founder-president N. T. Rama Rao in 1995.

At this stage, it would be presumptuous to conclude that the party will be torn asunder as it did earlier since Mr. Goud’s options and even ambitions are relatively modest.

But, the irony of the situation confronting the TDP is not lost. It won four Assembly and one Lok Sabha seat in Telangana, a performance considered as handsome and the launch-pad for Mr. Naidu’s comeback efforts. Yet, the TDP finds itself grappling with dissension over Telangana while, in contrast, the TRS has put the post-poll upheavals behind and is back to business in spite of its poor show.

TDP’s dilemma

It is a case of the chicken coming home to roost for the TDP. So peeved was Mr. Naidu with K. Chandrasekhar Rao for resigning from the party in 2000 and his starting a pro-Telangana party that he refused to recognise their existence for quite some time. This showed up his aversion to create any opening for a democratic discussion within the party on the Telangana issue.

This precisely is the TDP’s dilemma as much as it is for the ruling Congress. Political compulsions dictate that the party move a step forward from its stand of ‘we are not opposed to Telangana’ to a more forthright ‘we demand separate Telangana’. The second option will please Mr. Goud and his supporters but is fraught with political consequences -- the backlash in the coastal Andhra region where film actor Chiranjeevi is expected to pose a challenge.

It will also comprehensively alter the State’s political landscape by isolating the Congress as the only party not to have spelt out a categorical stand on Telangana. The TRS, the BJP and the CPI are known protagonists of a separate State while the CPI (M), though opposed to the State’s bifurcation, has said it can do precious little to prevent it if a majority of Parliament members support it.

Other issues

Telangana apart, the TDP will have to contend with other crucial issues too in this election year. The third front which Mr. Naidu is assiduously building under the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) banner can get unstuck if and when its largest constituent, the Samajwadi Party, decides to extend support to the UPA government. The CPI (M), his bypoll ally, too prefers to keep its options open for the next elections.

Those familiar with Mr. Naidu’s know that, by conviction, he wants the State to remain integrated as NTR founded the party on the plank of ‘Telugu pride’ whose natural corollary is integration of Telugu-speaking people.

Crucial meetings

He has a few more meetings of the core committee and the polit bureau before taking a decision. Mr. Naidu will be keenly watched whether he guides the party on the path on which it ought to go or steers it in the direction dictated by some leaders, whether from coastal Andhra or Telangana.

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