ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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By-elections and Telangana Agitation

The recent by-elections in the 12 assembly constituencies of Telangana indicate that the separate statehood demand has come to dominate the political discourse of the region. Social classes and groups seem to have left older political affiliations and coalesced around candidates who stand unequivocally for separate statehood. The dominant political parties - the Congress and the Telugu Desam - have paid heavily by not taking a clear stand and trying to play both sides.

The overwhelming performance of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in the recent by-elections held in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh (AP), caused by the resignation of the TRS legislators in support of the separate Telangana demand, is not much of a surprise for anyone familiar with the dynamics of the ground situation. The miserable performance of the Congress and the Telugu Desam (TDP) could be seen as symptomatic of the deeper crisis these parties are undergoing in the region. Their response to the electoral outcome has only further highlighted the confusion within them on the Telangana issue, as they have sought to attribute their defeat to their inability to take their points of view on Telangana to the people and to the popular sympathy for TRS candidates. This has only given further credence to the TRS’ claim that its victory is a clear popular mandate for the Telangana state demand and therefore should be treated as a referendum on the issue. It is no exaggeration to say that this election could become an important turning point in the Telangana movement by influencing the dynamics of party politics decisively. Given this, it would be instructive to understand the complex processes at work that this election symptomatically manifests.

The Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram’s announcement of the decision of the Government of India to initiate the process of formation of the state of Telangana in December 2009 in response to the fast by the TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and the mass mobilisation, cutting across party and political lines that happened in support of the demand, was seen to put an end to the long impasse on the issue. The unexpected and swift reaction from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions opposing this announcement initiated a new phase in the politics of Telangana state demand. The electrifying speed with which the members of the state assembly and Parliament from these regions, cutting across party lines, put in their resignations and the galvanising of support from students and employees led to a series of protests. In the last decade the separate Telangana state demand has been articulated widely, public support mobilised and it became an important electoral issue influencing outcomes in the Telangana region in both the 2004 and 2009 elections. Therefore, this orchestrated reaction came as a shock because there had not been a history of any such articulation in the other two regions of Andhra Pradesh which could indicate such an opposition, on such a scale.

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