Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Rise of Factionist YSR: Setback to the Telangana Movement

In the period of five years, Y.S. Rajsekhar Reddy- a product and a propeller of Rayalaseema factional politics- knew too well the mechanics and machinations of power and knew how to hit his adversaries at vulnerable points. He literally stifled all the opposition to his power, managed to distance the Delhi High Command from all the leaders particularly senior Telangana leaders who were left with no choice except repeating and reiterating their loyalty to the high command without any reciprocation from the other side. He nurtured sizable young goons and political lumpens who were personally loyal to him. YSR fortified his position to an extent that he became indispensable for the congress party both at the national and the state level.

The man is anything but a vendor of humane visages. His rise in politics has been accompanied by more bloodshed than that of any other politician in this state. Not bloodshed for some avowed ‘higher cause’, but bloodshed for the narrowest possible cause: the rise of one individual to political power and prominence. The recent elections may very well have meant many things in terms of popular aspirations, and one has no desire to be cynical on that score. But in the matter of the change of helmsmen, it has merely replaced a man who would find nothing too crooked if it is in his political interest, with one who would find nothing too brutal. And for both, the goal is the same: Power. Such precisely are the men neo-liberalism wishes to find in power in countries such as ours which it wants to subordinate to its logic and interests. It would be imprudent to regard this as an irrelevant consideration on the ground of the Congress Party’s avowal of a ‘human face’, for firstly that expression has no precise meaning, secondly Congressmen are known to be capable of changing course mid-stream, and thirdly India’s rulers irrespective of party have knowingly put themselves in a position where they have little leeway in matters of policy.

YSR (as he is known in short) belongs to Cuddapah district of the Rayalaseema region of the state. His constituency, Pulivendula, exhibits a most distressing topography: endless stretches of nude soil studded with gravel and relieved by rocks that are even more bare. It is watered, using the expression figuratively, by the Chitravati, a tributary of the Penna (called Pennair in most maps), itself hardly a river worth the name. Today YSR wishes to be seen as a politician who has responded to the needs of farmers and is determined to do well by them, but in the nearly three decades of his political life, he has not been instrumental in adding one acre of assured irrigation to the parched lands of the constituency that has again and again returned him or his brother (when YSR chose to go to parliament instead) to the state assembly.

Y.S.R saw to it that the peace talks, which he promised in the elections, collapse and ‘hounded’ the Maoists with such ruthlessness. The only difference between Babu and Y.S.R. styles is that the later tilted the economic reforms slightly in favour of rural economy in terms of building irrigation infrastructure writing off of the agricultural debt, free power supply to farmers and a few pro-rural poor measures. This shift from the high metropolis-centric IT dominated thrust to agrarian concerns turned Y.S.R. into almost a welfare symbol and his sudden death evoked popular sentiments and the media made him an icon out of the context.

YSR’s death was followed by a big drama in Andhra politics; the lumpen forces that were solidly rooted in politics and intensely engaged in amassing wealth by all means felt orphaned and were looking for an alternative in wilderness. There was no single congress man respectable and reputed to take over the mantle. It was in this utter despair they propped up his son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy whose political career was less than a hundred days at that time. Many congress men of all hues loudly claimed and openly argued that he was the only proper successor to YSR.

The young Jaganmohan Reddy triggered by ambition let loose the money and musclemen and created law and order problem in the state. Any name of a Telangana leader mentioned for the post of C.M. invited immediate protest and burning of the effigy of those leaders in their respective districts. The media which is also largely lumpenised lent wide publicity to every incident magnifying the protest that passed for public support to the young man. It created terrible fear all around and no congress man dared to even comment on what was happening around. Balagopal in his last address to Human Rights Forum just before he passed away, expressed his deep concern about this fear that gripped the state. This only suggests that Y.S.R. or his supporters built such an anti-social force that this drama would have been enacted if high-command had ever touched Y.S.R for any reason. It took this sequence to happen for the high command to realize that it enjoyed no support in this state and all the rhetoric used in praise of the high command was hollow. The seasoned congress politicians in Delhi wanted to do as much of damage control as possible and send a message to Y.S.R’s followers and to the Congress Party in the state that the power of High Command matters.

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