Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in Parliament on February 6 commented on the passage of Telangana State Bill by the UPA government. Apparently, he was comparing it with the passing of the Bills for abrogating Article 370 and CAA, 2019, by his own government. He said the Telangana Bill was passed amidst unrest, closing the doors of Parliament and the TV transmission switched off. He alleged that even Andhra and Telangana people were not consulted on it. He also said the BJP in 2000 created three States peacefully and all three of them are progressing very well.
It is a very politically incorrect statement. It seems the PM is not familiar with the history of Telangana State struggle, which was going on since 1956. Telangana State was not carved out from the original existing State formed at the time of independence like about 15 such divided States after independence. It was merged with Andhra, which was separated from the then Madras State even before the State Reorganisation Commission was formed in 1956 against the wishes of Telangana people and against the recommendation of the SRC with several guarantees and agreements, just to make an unviable Andhra State viable.
All the guarantees and agreements were flouted without exception. There were several campaigns for separate State since 1956 which were suppressed mercilessly. Some 367 people were shot dead by police and more than 1,000 committed suicides for the statehood. Such was the situation inside the forcibly merged State. These were unheard happenings in a civil struggle for political independence inside a democratic country. When such was the case of Telangana State struggle, for the Prime Minister to deride the State Bill is very galling to the people of Telangana. The Bill was not like the whimsical legislations passed by his government in Parliament.
His party also supported Telangana Bill in Parliament at that time. If it was not in order, they could have opposed it. Once a State is created by the Central government, all States are equal for the government and the Prime Minister, irrespective of party. He cannot endorse one State formation and denigrate the other. About his reference to the progress in the new States, it is already an established fact, endorsed by the RBI and other central institutions that within five years, Telangana has emerged as one of the frontline States in the country with its prudential financial management and a mixture of welfare programmes and big infrastructural development.
All its programmes have been appreciated by premier central institutions. Some of its programmes/projects are being copied by other States. This clearly vindicates the need, viability and legitimacy of the new State. It has done better than all the three States created in 2000, in the first five years. If he is considering residual AP, which is suffering from its inherited financial problems and the misrule by the TDP, till recently his ally, it is a different matter. Neither Telangana nor the UPA government is not responsible for it.
It is not for the first time that the PM is making negative comments on Telangana formation. Earlier, he said that they have killed the mother and saved the child. United AP was not the mother of Telangana. Andhra was with Madras State for over 100 years before its merger with Telangana. So the observation was factually incorrect. His party also was very lukewarm in its support to Telangana State before 2014. Only Sushma Swaraj wholeheartedly supported separate Telangana. LK Advani actually wanted to postpone the passing of the Telangana State Bill at the crucial juncture. Others were on the fence and Modi remained silent on the formation of Telangana state.
After the 2019 victory, the BJP government’s attitude towards States has become more patronising and condescending. Its legislative activities in Parliament have become shrouded in secrecy, are ushered in peremptorily and passed with a ham-handed approach. Abrogation of Article 370 and CAA are examples. These legislations have created a social polarisation in the name of national security and majority nationalism. To ride on this polarisation and win elections, such controversies are being created so as to sway the minds of the voters.
The comparison of abrogation of Article 370 and CAA with the Telangana State Bill is odious. After an arduous struggle of 58 years, Telangana State was declared on December 9, 2009. The Bill was brought in in February 2014. Whereas Article 370 and Citizenship (Amendment) Bills were brought in clandestinely overnight without consulting the stakeholders and passed using political muscle in Parliament. Telangana and AP have now reconciled with the division and are going in their own ways to consolidate their respective States and move forward to progress.
Even after six months of Abrogation of Article 370, Jammu & Kashmir is still not normal. The political leaders who were kept under house arrest from day one are now being booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Business and tourism in the State are down. It looks like the impasse is going to be indefinite. In the case of CAA, it is a total mess. Even though the Act has come into force from December 10, 2019, there are no rules framed to grant citizenship for the intended groups. There are no lists of illegal immigrants/intended groups available.
The NRC, which is supposed to ferret out illegal immigrants for CAA, is totally impracticable and is kept under wraps for obvious political reasons. These resultant public reactions speak volumes about the feasibility of the Bills introduced by the NDA government. The Prime Minister should not belittle Telangana statehood time and again. People of the State, who struggled for long, resent it. It is undemocratic as well.
(The author is a freelance journalist)