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Congress member of parliament from Telangana, Madhu Goud Yaskhi, is among the eight MPs suspended from the Lok Sabha for agitating for a separate state of Telangana. The former New York attorney tells Kavita Chowdhury how he feels and what the future holds for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
For the first time, ruling party MPs (Congress MPs) were suspended from Parliament by their own party. Did the suspension of all eight of you, who had been agitating for the cause of Telangana, come as a shock?
We do agree as responsible parliamentarians we should not have disrupted the Parliament proceedings. But we have been forced to do so as the UPA government and Parliament have not even made an appeal to the youth in Telangana to not take the extreme step. They are immolating themselves, to which Parliament has not expressed any grief or concern. There have been 15 self immolations in the past month. When the government can make an appeal to the youth in Kashmir during the stone throwing incidents there, then why not to the 40 million people in Telangana? Nothing has been done to stop innocent youth from committing suicides.
Has the Congress party and the government tried to reach you after the suspension?
Since the time we were suspended, Ghulam Nabi Azad (AICC incharge of Andhra Pradesh) and Vyalar Ravi have met us. So has the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal. The speaker, Meira Kumar, also called us for a meeting and understood our sentiments and that why we had been agitating. We have highlighted the recent spate in self immolations. Pawan Kumar Bansal has clarified that our suspension does not indicate the Congress stand on Telangana.
Your entry into politics was quite unusual, you were an attorney in New York...
I used to be active in student politics. And then even as a lawyer in New York, I used to be in touch with the Indian community and happenings in India. I would mobilise funds and used to raise issues related to NRIs. So, when 3,000 farmers from my own state, Andhra Pradesh, committed suicide during the TDP rule, I came to India and did all I could to help them. It was then that the Congress party offered me a ticket, in fact Sonia Gandhi gave me a chance despite a lot of opposition from the party. I decided to take up the challenge.
Apart from Telangana being an emotive issue in today’s date, what is the basis for the demand for a separate state of Telangana?
When I joined politics, the Congress in 2004 had made a promise to the people of Telangana to make a separate state, it was a poll promise in the manifesto as well. Then on December 9, 2009, P Chidambaram assured that the process of formation of the state would start which was followed by leaders of both Houses supporting it. So, it’s the credibility of the Congress which is at stake now.
Most importantly, the exploitation, backwardness and discrimination of the Telangana region justify the demand for a separate state. The backwardness of the region, in comparison with the development in Rayalseema and Andhra region; is evident. Even historically, while Andhra was developed, Telangana under the Nizam’s rule remained backward. The Indian National Congress wasn’t allowed here till 1939.
Until 2004, there was only one government medical college here. Of the Rs 230 crore spent on government-aided colleges, only Rs 19 crore went to Telangana. While on one district of Andhra, Guntur, Rs 33 crore was spent, for the entire 10 districts of Telangana only Rs 19 crore was spent. Please remember (development of) Hyderabad is not Telangana. The rest of the region is backward.
Do you think that the Congress has mismanaged the situation in Andhra Pradesh?
Yes, Congress has mishandled the situation. The party leaders who are in charge of Andhra have definitely not taken appropriate decision at the right time. Firstly, Telangana and then the way they handled Jagan Mohan Reddy (the son of late Y S Rajashekhar Reddy, former CM of Andhra Pradesh). There are ministers in the Andhra cabinet like K Ramachandra Rao, who are within the party, but are working for Jagan.
The current PCC president, as well as the current chief minister has no strategy to counter Jagan. By allowing the party to drift they have indirectly helped Jagan instead of exposing his misdeeds.
Did the Congress mishandle the Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s legacy?
Firstly, absolute power was given to YSR when he was alive. Then he became corrupt and he created his own sycophants at the cost of the party, who were more loyal to him than the party. His son, Jagan, amassed wealth with the CM’s support.
I had brought all this to the notice of the AICC secretaries in charge of Andhra, when YSR was alive itself. But, but I was ignored.
If the Congress doesn’t agree to your demand for a separate Telangana, how long will it be before you split from the party?
The Congress is debating the pros and cons. The protests that we witnessed soon after the announcement for a separate Telangana in 2009, were all orchestrated protests. Leaders like Chiranjeevi, Rajagopal all tried to show that the entire state of Andhra Pradesh was burning. But that was not the case. I want to challenge all these so-called Andhra leaders, in these upcoming bypolls to 18 seats, of which 17 are in Andhra region. Let them win all 17 seats and show if they can win.
Congress is on a weak wicket. If you divide the state, Congress will benefit. At present, 55 out of the 119 MLAs are from Telangana, 12 out of 17 MPs are from there, too. By giving in to Telangana, we can ensure Congress’ victory from the region in 2014, both in the assembly and in the Parliament polls.
But Congress leaders say they are apprehensive that the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) will walk away with the credit of a separate Telangana?
The TRS is on record stating that they will join the Congress if they agree to a separate state of Telangana. Congress has been working on the assumption that creating a separate state will damage their prospects. Even our expulsion has only added to the indications in the public that Congress is against the creation of Telangana. Looking at the results of the last bypoll in Nellore, where Congress lost, TRS gained and so did the BJP. They are all cashing in on the non-fulfillment of the promise by the Congress. It’s a question of credibility of Congress leadership, how can they go back on their own word.
In your view, what are the chances of Telangana being created before 2014?
I am confident that the Congress is realising its mistake. The assumption that the movement will fizzle out by delaying the whole process, is a wrong idea. It’s a democratic peaceful movement and the youth that are agitating are killing and immolating themselves, but not inciting violence. We are ready to wait, to do whatever it takes to achieve our cause.