Hyderabad: The Telangana State High Court’s decision to refer the TSRTC strike case to the Labour Department to be tried under the Industrial Disputes Act has vindicated the State government’s consistent assertion that the unions’ demands and the subsequent agitation do not fall under the purview of the High Court.
The Division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy, while dealing with a batch of writ petitions on the strike issue on Monday, made it clear that the ball was now in the court of the conciliation officer of the department to sort out the issue, even as it sought the government’s indulgence to go soft on the 48,000-odd workers and employees considering their plight.
The State government had time and again made it clear in the High Court that the strike was illegal since the unions had bypassed all the norms before launching the strike. The government had pointed out that the unions had walked out during the conciliation talks, stating that merger of the corporation with the government was on top of their agenda. The State government, on its part, had ruled out merger, but Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao still opened a window of opportunity for the workers to return to work, giving them three days to report to duty. Though ground reports suggested that the workers wanted to return to work, the unions through coercion prevented them from getting back to normal life.
The strike and the subsequent litigation in court also exposed the brazen attempts by the opposition parties, particularly the BJP, to politicise the issue. The saffron party tried to prop up the RTC JAC leadership with assurances that the Centre would step in and take on the State government, since the former, they claimed, had a stake in the corporation. That didn’t happen. In fact, the Additional Solicitor General, in his affidavit before the court, virtually said the Union government had nothing to do with the strike since it did not recognize the existence of TSRTC.
Discerning observers of the situation developing out of the strike would not have missed the gradual shift in the discourse of the RTC JAC leadership from the typical union talk of workers’ welfare to one loaded with political overtones. At one point of time, the JAC convenor had even gone to the extent of stating that the people of Telangana State would decide whether “the corporation should be shut down or the TRS should be shunted out.” This sort of politicisation of the issue would not have come about without political patronage.
The BJP has been desperate to make a dent in the stranglehold that TRS has in the State, and it believed that the RTC strike issue would serve as the perfect platform to further its interest. But then, the party did not reckon with the various pulls and pressures within. With young and new brand of leaders such as Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay trying to hog the limelight and cash in on the situation, the saffron party’s State unit president K Laxman, a relatively soft-spoken person, was probably compelled to strike a tone of hostility against the TRS.
But the one BJP leader who took the cake for pouring political vitriolic on the ruling party is one of its spokespersons. On the day the HC said it can’t adjudicate on the RTC stir, he decided to shoot off a statement asking Ministers, TRS legislators and leaders to revolt against Chandrashekhar Rao. The tone and tenor of the spokesperson’s statement speaks volumes of the BJP’s desperation and the extent to which the party can go to further its interests. Taunting Ministers T Harish Rao and Etela Rajender, the BJP spokesman wondered what had happened to the spirit they exhibited during the statehood movement and sought to know the reason for their silence when 48,000 RTC workers were on the streets. “You are all indulging in politics of opportunism,” he declared.
The BJP would do well to rein in such leaders, who are not only indulging in dirty politics, but are also sinking to abysmal depths of uncivil behaviour just to keep themselves afloat.