Telangana: A boon granted by the Mother?



An approximate translation of what’s written on the board would be,
“ This.. is a boon granted by The Mother!
The long lasting dream for Telangana has finally been realized..
All the people of Telangana are truly grateful to the UPA President Mrs. Sonia   Gandhi for granting us the boon of a separate state for the Telangana region.
We are in debt to our leader for fulfilling our long lasting desire (for Telangana)”

After the announcement of the decision taken by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to form the state of Telangana, a series of such bill boards were put up in one the busiest junctions in Hyderabad.  Upon seeing these boards, the first question that ran through my mind was, how can any individual in a people’s democracy, with a Government of the people, by the people and for the people, grant a “boon”?  Or more accurately, why would any elected representative or political party adopt such a rhetoric, in a nation that is supposed to be using a series of democratic processes to address the issues its people face?

I would like to think that the people of Telangana would never collectively consider themselves as a loyal vassal of “The Mother” or anybody else, and that they would certainly not call a decision affecting the fates and sentiments of more than 84 million of their Telugu brethren as a “boon” granted by some individual. What is clearly at display here is one of the biggest detrimental realities of the Indian political system, the divisive, dynasty-based feudal nature of Indian politics.

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayana, the President of the Lok Satta Party, notes that, “most parties are dominated by only one leader and monarchy is the correct description of party leadership. Once in office, the power of leadership is absolute.” Nearly 80 legislators and 17 Ministers passed a resolution on Saturday in Hyderabad asking the CWC to reverse its decision. The fact that even the highest ranking officials in the Andhra Pradesh Congress Government, like the Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and the revenue minister N Raghuveera Reddy, are opposing the CWC decision emphasizes the unfortunate path of imposition adopted by the CWC as opposed to the necessary path of reconciliation backed by reason.

A significant majority of our politicians completely ignore the idea of rational discussion and focus on stoking various communal sentiments based on region, religion, language, and caste. This greatly undermines the effectiveness of our democracy. If the people are reasonably informed that the formation of Telangana would lead to better governance and collective prosperity, no sane individual would oppose its formation. Even if some irrational element does, the people will make their informed voice heard when they exercise their franchise in the upcoming elections.

In the same manner, if the grievances of the people from Telangana are adequately addressed, there would be no reason to not keep Andhra Pradesh united. I might be stating the obvious, but what I am trying to highlight is that the current state of our democracy does not facilitate a rationale based public discussion focused on solving the real concerns and problems that the people have. Even in the case of Telangana,  I think that most individuals would agree that the relative socio-economic backwardness of the Telangana region is a consequence of an unfortunate historical progression of a systemic flaw and not of some vindictive plot of exploitation hatched by the people of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra. However instead of focusing on a rationale based solution to the grievances of the people, our leaders focus on suppressing the spirit of reason and creating an irrational set of communal boundaries in our hearts. I don’t know if this is a consequence of idiocy or manipulative tendency but I do know that, in this case, the collective prosperity of the Telugu people has been completely compromised due to this approach. The bandh’s, the suicides, the political instability, and the negative trend in investor confidence in the stability of the state, can all substantiate this assertion.

One has to wonder how much of a difference a line on a map will make to the Telugu people, if governance continues to be dictated by the prevalent populist, divisive, conformist, regressive and criminalized sociopolitical agenda. This agenda is the real hurdle for India’s dream of achieving  sustainable and prosperous socio-economic growth. Dr. B R Ambekar said, “the constitution was a wonderful temple we built for (the) Gods (but) before they could be installed the devils have taken possession.”

Maybe the most urgent need of the hour isn’t to instantly figure out how many more lines to draw on a map, but to redefine the political system by promoting merit based political recruitment, and ending the feudal party system. Maybe we need to realize that the root of the socio-economic problems we face is the lack of clean, just and effective governance. We need to break away from the shackles of passivity and inch our way towards such a change. This change can be brought about by refusing to succumb to the divisive rhetoric of a majority of members belonging to today’s political parties and actively engaging in rationale based public discussions and movements. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “The public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.”

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