|Legislators rush out after pepper spray was used in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. (Above) Ponnam Prabhakar, a pro-Telangana Congress MP from Karimnagar, who had to be hospitalised after he was beaten up. He was discharged later. When contacted this evening, Prabhakar said he was not in a position to speak. Pictures by Prem Singh and PTI
New Delhi, Feb. 13: As the Lok Sabha was pepper-sprayed today over Telangana, several MPs of the BJP and the Congress rewound to the November of 2000 when three new states were created — Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The NDA, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, presided over the birth of the states and the BJP and the Congress both celebrated for the same reason.
The Congress got the reins of Chhattisgarh, carved out of Madhya Pradesh where it was already in power.
The BJP came to power in the other two states. It already had a government in Uttar Pradesh, the state that split to create Uttarakhand. In Bihar, out of which Jharkhand was formed, Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal was ruling but the BJP had the most MLAs in Jharkhand.
“How we wish that Vajpayeeji was around to oversee Telangana’s creation,” a Congress MP from Madhya Pradesh said today, reflecting the flickering presence of bi-partisanship amid the intra-party feuds on Telangana.
But why is Telangana’s creation proving so difficult when that of the three states was smooth? The answer, perhaps, lies in Hyderabad.
“United Andhra Pradesh centred around Hyderabad and Hyderabad is going away from it. Uttar Pradesh retained Lucknow, Bihar kept Patna and Bhopal remained with Madhya Pradesh,” an analyst said.
The view was seconded by another opinion-maker, who pointed out that none of the three northern states could boast of a city like Hyderabad, which is designated the second capital of India and houses the Rashtrapati Nilayam that serves as the President’s second official residence.
Academic and columnist Sanjaya Baru, who was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s media adviser in UPA I, wrote in a an article in the Hindu last October: “Even the Partition of India was planned with greater care by a colonial government than this haphazard and utterly insensitive handling of the division of a premier state of the Union.”
He added: “Heavens would not have fallen if the Congress had first articulated its own vision for Telangana, for Seemandhra and for Hyderabad and then re-assured all that the interests of those resident in Hyderabad and those aspiring to be so resident would not be harmed by whatever solution was going to be offered.”
Investments that poured into Hyderabad under N. Chandrababu Naidu earned it the name Cyberabad and prompted late Pramod Mahajan to rue that his own city, Mumbai, had lost the competitive edge that the IT revolution opened up.
Hyderabad, therefore, has an economic angle to it quite apart from its rich history, cultural heritage and culinary distinctiveness. Most of the Seemandhra MPs who turned violent in Parliament today have made mega investments in the city using money they earned from the cash crops grown in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.
A Telugu Desam Party MP said: “I am from Seemandhra but my business is in Hyderabad. I am scared that my industries, showrooms and bungalows will be gutted by Telangana chauvinists.”
BJP MP M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is from Nellore, was heard telling his colleagues he was afraid for his son who runs a business from Hyderabad.
A political observer blamed the Congress for playing the caste card. “In the 2004 elections, K. Chandrasekhar Rao (chief of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi) used his high caste Velama origin as a political platform against Naidu’s Khama caste. YSR campaigned on Chandrababu Naidu’s economic policies and won the election for the Congress. But through YSR’s tenure, one got the feeling that Sonia Gandhi was advised by her confidants to prop up Chandrasekhar Rao as YSR’s counterweight. Indira Gandhi had adopted the same strategy in the late sixties…. The Congress created the fault-lines, caste, community, intra-region,” he said.
Not that the road to the creation of the three states in 2000 was entirely smooth.
Lalu Prasad had declared Jharkhand would be formed over his dead body, and Vajpayee’s managers spoke to him for months before he relented.
Uttarakhand’s formation was preceded by a violent agitation against Mulayam Singh Yadav’s move to enforce a 27 per cent quota in education and jobs for the backward castes in 1993. The hill districts were dominated by the upper castes. Mulayam set up a panel to examine their demands, which in 1994 advocated a new state. A massive agitation by students and government employees followed, leading to police firing that killed several protesters.