Friday, December 31, 2010

A Congressman’s Report on Political Crisis in Andhra Pradesh (10 Dec 2009)

In view of the report of Justice Srikrishna committee, I thought I woud share this report submitted by one of the congressmen to the party before all this happened. This report was submitted on 10 Dec 2009 right after the center gave a positive signal for Telangana and before the appointment of SriKrishna Committee.

1. Present Situation

The situation in the state is not conducive to good decision making at present. No side is ready even to listen to the other side. People and the leaders are not clear in stating the concerns and issues that are the root cause of their discontent. Efforts to create at least a window of opportunity for the crisis managers to salvage the situation are very few and completely uncoordinated. Conspiracy theorists and mongers of despair are having a field day in the state. This is resulting in ‘People-to-people hatred’ and saner voices are becoming
irrelevant with each passing day.

2. Perceived Injustice

Common perception in the state is that the voices of non Telangana people were never heard. I am not saying it is true but this is the perception I am noticing everywhere. The leaders and people from Non-Telangana region are feeling that they were taken for granted. This perceived injustice and Hyderabad City as main bone of contention are the basic reasons that are getting manifested in various forms of arguments that are complicating the situation in the state.
Till recently the Non-Telangana leaders were restrained as they were asked not to escalate tensions. Suddenly when they realized that the decision is made, there is a feeling of complete neglect and marginalization of them. There were angry reactions from the people of other regions. Unfortunately our leaders instead of leading the people in the right direction were actually following the mob psyche.

In fact the people were mentally prepared for the separation of the state in due course of time but expected that they will get a chance to express their concerns. Unfortunately for us people did not look at the assembly debate on the resolution as a forum to voice their concerns. The collective wisdom in the state is showing that the situation during Mr. KCR’s fast is not as grave as it was believed to be portrayed. Many people are feeling that a small piece of favorable statement would have brought the fast to a close. The surprise expressed even by supporters of Mr. KCR shows that the bargain he got was hugely in his favor at the cost of congress party.

My read of the political situation suggests that the impact of a sudden announcement and the need for it was not conveyed to the central leadership appropriately. The party leadership in the state is expected to carry the inputs and impact on the other regions of the state along with the one line resolution from the CLP. Unfortunately it is being perceived by majority of non-Telangana people that the state leadership has only taken a piece of paper but not the spirit behind the paper to Delhi.

Once we address the above described perception of injustice, we can address the remaining political and administrative issues/concerns easily.

Once again it reminds us that, in politics it is not enough to do the right things but we should also be seen as doing the right things.

3. Other Concerns and Issues
  • Hyderabad City is the main contentious point in the whole episode. People from different regions of the state have their role in the development of the city and have woven their future with that of the city.
  • Stereo typing of Non-Telangana people as exploiters and colonizers as done by TRS is one of the main reasons for the emotional backlash in the other regions.
  • Concern on the plan of separation, and time frame is confusing the people on all the sides.
  • Future of irrigation projects and sharing of water resources, mechanism for protection of investments in various regions
4. One main reason for the chaos 

Complete polarization of the state on the lines of region can be attributed to a large extent to the lack of statesmanship and vacuum in the political leadership. This is true for all the parties but we need to address it in our party. MLAs are just following the demands of the people. None of them are showing the gumption to be the thought leaders. At present nobody is in a position even to listen to different views. In a more generic description of this problem, most of our MLAs are just bound by their group and regional loyalties but not by ideological and policy bonding.

Personally, I was disappointed when the official party meetings are conducted region wise for the MPs. Leaders at the level of an MP shall be matured enough to be open amongst themselves at least in party forums. But I reserve my conclusions on this to a future date until I understand more about our politics and am sufficiently experienced.

At this moment, there is no leader in the state whose sense of justice inspires a degree of trust in the eyes of all the sections. The problem is a result of lack of political leadership in the state.
5. Basis for a solution

I am sure we will find a solution to this problem and we will be solving much complicated problems also in future. However, we need to ensure that all the stakeholders understand the basis on which our solution is going to be built and they should work on their side to get an acceptable solution with in a basic framework.

I am proposing the following as the basis for a solution to this problem:
  • Democratic and just aspirations of any section of the society cannot be bulldozed by majority
  • Sentiments and emotions are taken into account while taking decisions and will be accommodated to the extent possible but sentiments and emotions cannot form the basis for our decisions
  • Peace and order shall be ensured in the state before we take any steps. No move that fuels hatred in people is acceptable All parties shall take a clear stand and make it public.
  • Large sections of the society cannot be hold to ransom by a few sentiments
  • A list of critical issues to be agreed by all stakeholders on which an honorable solution shall be eked out. All parties shall agree that the next steps will be taken only after a consensus on critical issues
6. Action Plan and Approach

Within the above framework I propose the following action plan in a phased approach:

Restoring Normalcy
  1. Eminent people of the party shall give a call to the people to get back to their daily routine and assure them that all the interests will be taken care of.
  2. Party leaders shall take lead in restoring normalcy and calling off public movements. Leaders shall issue a call to the people that they will voice their concerns.
  3. Our MLA’s and MPs from both regions shall issue a joint statement and shall start functioning together. The leaders shall be asked to demonstrate it publicly.
Removing perceptions of Injustice
  1. Make a gesture that boosts the confidence in both regions. (May be we can give national status to a project in each region)
  2. A few leaders of eminence shall tour both the regions and hear the voices and concerns of all the stakeholders
  3. Call for a special session of the assembly for 3 or 5 days just for discussion on the Telangana issue. This will allow the opinions to come out.
Next moves
  1. Engage the stakeholders in preparing the list of critical issues
  2. Establish a commission that verifies the feasibility of a solution for all critical issues
  3. Address the basic questions raised in the next section of this report and start policy interventions at the national level
  4. Communicate a vision on how the life of common citizen gets better and gather public support for the idea
7. Basic questions raised

This crisis has thrown some very basic and important questions for us to ponder.
  1. Why only Hyderabad city witnessed so much of development that it became the main issue of contention? This opens up the question on regional disparities. Perhaps, we need to think of a policy to treat these big cities on par with critical installations not belonging to any one state or region. I can see the pattern that warrants it through Mumbai and Hyderabad. We need to review the devolution of power to different levels with more urgency
  2. Why were the general public in all the regions silent when the parties took a stand? And why were the people suddenly turned against the stated positions of the parties? Statements and positions of political leaders do not have much credibility in the eyes of the people. This is a grave danger to our democracy that shall be addressed.
  3. Why did our party leadership in the state fail to gauge the people’s mood? Ability to read the peoples mood and sound judgment to choose between different alternatives are the basic qualities for a political leader. Our party organization is blinded by divisive politics on the lines of their respective groups, castes and regions. It is evident that the analysis communicated to our central leadership is way off the mark in accuracy and degree of the gravity. While this can happen once in a while, we need to ensure that the leaders own the accountability for their misreading and are ready to pay the political price.
  4. What are the ways and means for the citizen to express their protest other than through vandalism? It is time for all of us to think about a mechanism at the national level that facilitates registration of protest by citizens. We cannot have the amount of destruction and the number of torched busses as the only measure of discontent. Executive in this country shall start taking notice of civilized protests and shall act on them. Otherwise we are just encouraging people on the wrong path.
8. Lessons for the party
  1. On crucial issues we should be putting efforts in carefully taking the issue to the people just as we did in the case of 123-agreement. Issuing gag orders and relying on information from few people is complicating the matters and is weakening our democracy. I personally feel that the rationale behind our position of appointing a 2nd SRC would have been well received by the people had we tried hard enough to explain.
  2. Political read and the ability to grasp the pulse of people by our state level leadership and MLAs is found wanting
  3. We need to put more emphasis on preparedness in the party while taking critical decisions
  4. There is a huge difference in the level of intellect between the first and the second line of leadership in the party. We need to address this at the earliest through good training.
9. Conclusion

This report is a sincere attempt to objectively analyze the situation. The main intent is to bring out the injustice perceived to the party so that the party can address it suitably. I have full confidence in the leadership of Congress party and am hopeful of a solution as I know better people than me are handling the crisis. I am just fulfilling the duty of a congressman by providing my analysis to the party.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

India, Maoists and the Citizens - PART 3

For addressing the issue of Maoism and continuing the fight on behalf of our democracy, it is important to understand various facets and perspectives. We need to think why there are so many people who are against our democracy.

It is very easy for the comfortable middle class to think that Maoists or their supporters are just a handful of people who are holding the significant majority of the population for ransom. It is the way many of the empowered India might want to believe.

Maoists as such who are the advocates and believers in their doctrine are only a handful. But there are many people who are flocking to them. Why? There are huge numbers of people who are denied justice in our society and are short of any decent avenues to express their concerns leave alone redressal of their grievances. These people have no other option but to join whoever fights with the system.

When the corpses of CRPF men or the innocent train travelers are shown on TV, people want the government to launch an outright war to eliminate the Maoists and their supporters in one fell swoop. Wait.. people will also clamor for putting all those Human Right’s activists in jail for ever.

Will that solve our problem? Above all, will it deliver justice?

Why were so many millions not getting justice in our democracy? Why there were no avenues for all these people except the Maoist banner? Do we want to kill all these people and ensure that all the resources of this country are kept for the fortunate few who constitute the empowered India?

I am sure, one side will use the anger and frustration of common people to justify their hasty actions just as, the Maoists are using the plight of tribal people to justify their fight.

One side wants development and peace while the other demands justice and space to live. There are wolves around these two groups of people who want to encourage one against the other and then devour both of them.

Some might identify Maoists as the wolves and some others might identify the greedy capitalists as the wolves. who do you think are the wolves? …Yes. Both of them.

We need to address the issues and wean the support away from Maoists. We need to show that our system of governance can deliver justice to the people. That is the only way to win our battle with the Maoists. With or without this fight with the Maoists, isn’t it our endeavor to deliver justice to all the Indians? So how do we ensure justice to all these people? We need not go anywhere in search of the answers. Just look at the preamble of our constitution which we gave to ourselves. That is the obligation we made to each other.  When that obligation is fulfilled only for some and the others are seen as a hindrance to the fortunate few in their onward march there will be a fight. That is what is going on now.

Why can’t we first stop those mining leases in Dandakaaranya? Why can’t we stop those big dams for the time being? Do we need to have air conditioners running at the cost of evacuating millions of people from their habitat just because we are powerful and we think that those millions of people are just not fit for survival? Do we need to fill the coffers of treasury with the foreign exchange earned by exporting raw ore, at the cost of displacing and demoralizing millions of our fellows? Can’t we wait till we evolve a shared understanding?  

Think about it. Choose the right path. Correct path many a times in human history is not the easy one. Yes.. we need to pressurize our governments to make this a more inclusive society as that is the only way for peace or for development.

Weekend Politician Note: In simple I would agree more with Mr. Digvijay Singh rather than our Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram on the way we should be conducting this fight.