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Mainstream, VOL LX No 23, New Delhi, May 28, 2022

Politics of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh: Mapping Trajectories of Change in the Post-Bifurcation Period | Karli Srinivasulu

Friday 27 May 2022, by Karli Srinivasulu

The state of Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (AP) in 2014 after nearly six decades of existence. It is more than seven years since they came into being as two separate states. Two elections to their state assemblies and two parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2019 have been conducted, leading to a restructuring of political regimes, strengthened development-welfare policy focus, new political contestations, and enhanced modes of coopting and (re)shaping civil society and subaltern activism, leading to their marginalization and deceleration.

With the emergence of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the early 1980s, the undivided state of AP saw displacement of the Congress party from its long-term position of dominance since the state formation in 1956. Two party competition between the Congress and TDP led to the emergence of a vibrant civil society with civil and democratic rights movements (peasant, Dalit, women’s, literacy, beedi workers’, weavers’, teachers and environmental movements) in all the three regions of the state, Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema (Andhra and Rayalaseema now constitute AP).

The two-decade long movement for a Telangana state was the result of convergence of these peoples’ movements with progressive civil society associations in other regions extending support to it. This made the state demand an overarching issue that could encompass other social demands. If this synchrony was phenomenal, the irony of the post-bifurcation period is the depreciation of political, civil and subaltern society domains in both states. The nature of politics in the two states has undergone a decisive shift in terms of party presence, competition, mobilization and symbolic resources of popular appeal. This article aims to map out and analyze the different trajectories of development in the two states, and to assess the implications for democratic and policy governance.

The presentation is made in four sections. The first section contextualizes the Telangana state demand to understand the structuring of the politics in the post-bifurcation period. It shows the significant impact of movement dynamics on the agendas, contestations and challenges of the successor states. Section two maps the political dynamics of the two states with the 2014 and 2019 elections as reference points; third section analyses the nature of policy regimes focusing on development-welfare issues; section four examines the changes in the civil and subaltern spheres to reflect on the nature of democratic politics and governance in the post-bifurcation period.

I

Historical Background

The Telangana movement projected structures of domination and discrimination suffered by the region in political economy, social and cultural terms. This had a direct bearing on the idea of Telangana, shaping the new state’s politics, governance and development. Issues of backwardness and a need for course correction dominated it.

The Telangana demand was opposed in the Andhra region on the ground of the loss and deprivation that it would suffer. With massive coastal Andhra capital investments in it, Hyderabad city had emerged as a centre of rapid and high growth, making it a principal source of revenue after the economic liberalization process was initiated in the 1990s. The narrative of loss has dominated political discourse in AP leading to a demand for compensation for the loss of capital city and its share in the revenue.

The state of AP had been formed in 1956 on the principle of language bringing together the Telangana region, which was part of the multi-lingual princely Hyderabad state, [1] and the State of Andhra. Andhra State had been formed in 1953 comprising the Telugu speaking coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions that had been part of the British governed composite Madras Presidency [2]. Telugu linguistic identity movements had long been active in both Hyderabad state and Madras presidency.

In Andhra State, there was an overwhelming enthusiasm for the merger of these diverse regions, but the Telangana region saw popular disinterest and even resentment at such a move. The Andhra Congress leadership was desperate for a capital city, after Madras went to the new Tamil State. They found a solution in the infrastructurally well-equipped and cosmopolitan Hyderabad city. The Telangana leadership in contrast found the merger to be problematic. Given Telangana’s unevenness in economic and social development and the relatively weak national presence of its political and cultural elite, they were opposed to the merger. They feared it would put the region in a clear position of disadvantage in relation to the Andhra region. The result was visible opposition in Telangana to the idea of merger with Andhra.

The States’ Reorganization Commission, constituted in 1953 to consider reconstituting the states in the Indian federation, presented a dispassionate assessment of the regional unevenness and of the lack of enthusiasm, even distrust, among the Telangana people toward a unified Telugu State:

“apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana that they may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of the coastal area... The real fear of the people of Telangana is that if they join Andhra they will be unequally placed in relation to the people of Andhra and in this partnership the major partner will derive all the advantages immediately, while Telangana itself may be converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhra.”

—[Report of the SRC, 1955, p 105; emphasis added]

Telangana Movement

There were broadly two phases in the demand for Telangana statehood. The first phase emerged in the late 1960s. [3] The second one can be traced back to the mid- 1990s, resulting in the formation of the Telangana state in 2014. [4]

The two movements differed in causes, character, participation and spread. The immediate provocation for the first phase was the failure to honour the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ between Congress leaders of both regions to safeguard the interests of Telangana people. It provided protection of Telangana natives’ access to government employment, through the provision of Mulki (local jobs for locals only) rules, establishment of a Telangana Regional Committee (TRC) to monitor development in Telangana including the sale of agricultural lands, enhancement of educational and irrigation facilities, and political representation of the Telangana region. [5] Failure of the successive governments to implement the safeguards brought about a trust deficit in the united AP state, which was the principal cause of the 1960s separatist movement.

The first phase of the movement began with autonomous self-mobilization by disgruntled educated and unemployed youth and government employees, articulated as perception of discrimination and usurpation of their opportunities by the youth and employees of the more developed coastal Andhra region. As the movement drew in the rural population, the political class, especially a section of the Congress Party in Telangana, rallied behind and subsequently took over the leadership of the movement, giving it a political character.

This movement led to another series of arrangements, safeguards and promises made in the form of a Six Point formula. It provided legislative committees and a Government Order to protect the educational and employment interests of the Telangana youth. [6] These provisions met a similar fate as the Gentlemen’s Agreement.

The sense of grievance was compounded in the aftermath of the TDP coming to power in the early 1980s. The victory of the TDP, the leadership of which is identified regionally with coastal Andhra and sociologically with the nouveau riche Kamma caste, paved the way for a large scale migration of Andhra elite and unemployed into Hyderabad. Their presence became increasingly conspicuous as emerging educated youth from Telangana found stiff competition from the migrants. Tensions exasperated by the liberalization process initiated in the 1990s by TDP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu resulted in disgruntlement in almost every sector of the economy and society of Telangana and Hyderabad city.

The Naidu regime augmented a real estate boom in Hyderabad which was pursued vigorously by the subsequent Congress regime headed by YS Rajasekhar Reddy, also from Andhra. The boom was seen as leading to the near complete ‘colonization’ of Hyderabad City and surrounding districts by the neo-rich contractor-real estate broker-business classes of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema belonging predominantly to the Kamma and Reddy communities. The elite of Telangana region lagged behind in terms of capital and political patronage. They were either left out of the transformation of the Hyderabad City or had to adjust as junior partners of the enterprising real estate class. [7]

These developments formed the basis of a prolonged and sustained movement for Telangana beginning in the 1990s. The differences in the historical backgrounds between backward Telangana and rich coastal Andhra - the former’s developmental lag and latter’s aggressive entrepreneurial spirit - are not merely of historical importance but continue to inform subsequent economic and political processes. [8]

II

Differential Political Trajectories

Bifurcation initiated a new phase in the politics of the two states. The 2014 election for state and national legislatures showed two different trajectories of political change, with some commonalities. Both states saw a remarkable decline of the Congress Party that had ruled undivided AP since 2004. This was due to the popular perception, though not on the same scale in both states, that the Congress was the cause of their woes. In Telangana the long delay of state division despite the UPA government’s Parliamentary declaration for statehood had resulted in popular anxiety and suffering. The Congress was held responsible and punished for it. In Andhra the Congress decision for the division was seen as detrimental to the region.

The Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS), which had led the Telangana demand, won with 34.7 percent of the popular vote, winning 63 assembly seats and 11 parliamentary seats. The Congress Party performed better in Telangana than in AP. It secured 24.5 percent of the popular vote, winning 21 assembly and 2 parliamentary seats. Despite the TDP being branded as an Andhra Kamma party it still continued to demonstrate a strong electoral presence in Telangana state largely due to its party organisation and cadre base. The TDP, which contested in alliance with the BJP in both states, garnered 22.6 percentage of the vote to win 15 assembly seats and the BJP gained one. Each party earned one parliamentary seat. This changed considerably by the next election.

Preceding bifurcation, the TRS had not shown an electoral breakthrough in Telangana. In fact it had fought the 2004 and 2009 elections in alliance with the Congress and TDP respectively, showing the limitations of its organisational spread and electoral strength. Frequent bye-elections, held before bifurcation due to collective resignations by the TRS legislators to prove popular support for the state demand, had drawn blanks as the TRS lost significantly in these bye-elections to both the Congress and TDP.

But bifurcation brought about a strategic shift for the TRS. Given its single point agenda of achieving Telangana statehood, the TRS acquired a unique image of being the credible Telangana party. In contrast the Congress Party, being under the control of the national High Command and needing to balance conflicting demands from the Andhra region, had always shown hesitancy, raising doubts about its commitment to the cause. In the case of the TDP, its Telangana party ultimately being under the control of its Andhra leadership had a clear disadvantage in the post-bifurcation period. The history of wavering and even doubtful support by the Congress and TDP for the Telangana movement played to their disadvantage in the 2014 elections.

This picture changed dramatically by the 2018 assembly and the 2019 parliamentary elections. Being in power for a full term, the TRS further consolidated its position with 46.9 percent popular vote and 88 seats in the assembly and 41. 29 percent vote and nine seats in the parliament elections. The Congress has seen a marginal improvement in its popular vote though not any major change in its seat tally. The TDP has become inconsequential in Telangana.

The scenario in AP has been to the contrary. The TDP, given the sociology of its leadership, ideological character and historical evolution, has been perceived as an Andhra party. Under the leadership of Chandrababu Naidu, former chief minister of undivided AP, the TDP captured power in 2014 in alliance with the BJP by winning 102 assembly seats with a popular vote of 44.45 per cent. The Congress in Andhra suffered a setback due to a challenge to its state leadership. The claim to power by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the son of former CM YS Rajashekar Reddy following the latter’s demise in a helicopter crash had been rejected by the Congress High Command. Therefore he formed a new party, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), which successfully usurped the political space of the parent party and emerged as an alternative to it, almost on the line of the TMC in West Bengal. The YSRCP garnered 44.12 percentage vote and 67 assembly seats, reducing the Congress to a mere 2.94 per cent. In 2019 the YSRCP defeated the TDP in the assembly polls by getting 151 seats with 49.9 per cent vote. Losing just 5 per cent vote since the last election the TDP had to settle for a seat position of 23.

It may be recollected that YSR had brought the Congress back into power in 2004 after a decade of TDP rule largely due to a protracted and strenuous padayatra (pilgrimage on foot) covering the entire state undertaken to highlight the crisis in agrarian rural sector. As a re-play of this Jagan almost uninterruptedly undertook padayatras throughout the state after the Congress high command denied him the chief ministership. Following his electoral defeat in 2014 he renewed this with vigour, seeking to highlight the need for a return of ‘Rajanna rajyam’ — the highly populist rule of YSR [9]. The padayatra was widely perceived as a demonstration of his tenacity and will, instilling popular confidence as amply vindicated by his 2019 victory.

The AP state has seen an intensified competitive politics with the TDP and YSRCP as the main players. Serious social contestation has ensued between the two dominant castes of the state, with Kammas rallied around the TDP and the Reddys around the YSRCP. Since the large majority of SCs are Christians, they have gravitated to YSRCP largely because of Jagan’s Christian association.

Thus bifurcation has led to further strengthening of regional parties in the two states. As in the case of all the regional parties in India, the TDP, TRS and YSRCP are Supremo-centred and strongly identified with a dominant peasant caste. Their profiles very clearly demonstrate this: the TDP, founded by NT Rama Rao, now headed by his son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu, has its core support base in the Kamma caste; the TRS headed by K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) belonging to Velama, a dominant peasant caste of Telangana, is controlled by the family; the YSRCP formed by YS Jaganmohan Reddy by breaking away from the Congress is entirely owned and controlled by the family. So central is the place and role of the Supremo in these parties that the political regime and policy populism are identified with him. It is the supremo who takes major decisions in the matters of party and government, and decides candidates for elections. Loyalty to the supremo, who plays chief election campaigner appealing for votes in his name, is the principal criterion.

Given the centrality of the persona of the supremo, these parties make no qualms about the practice and perpetuation of dynastic politics. It is taken for granted that his son Lokesh would succeed Naidu as the chief of the TDP and in the case of the TRS, the succession is more or less settled with the appointment of KCR’s son KT Rama Rao as the working president of the party. This makes the ownership of his legacy a family property and necessitates that it be inherited by the member of the family favoured by the leader. The absence of internal democracy in these parties makes them centralized, individualized and autocratic, with serious implications for democratic prospects in the state. Both Telangana and AP display a marked democratic deficit in both governance and larger political processes.

III

Policy Regimes and Development in Telangana and AP 

High on the agenda of political debate and electoral contestation is the question of development. In both states the perception of loss and deprivation dominates the political discourse and framing of developmental policy choices. Correction of the historical course is emphasized as the solution to Telangana’s backwardness, while in AP it is the building of a new capital city. These differences have led to contrasting policy priorities.

The Telangana movement was orchestrated on the theme of neglect of irrigation due to the biases of the dominant Andhra political and economic elite. Since the time of fourteenth century Kakatiya rulers, Telangana had had an interconnected village tank irrigation infrastructure, the maintenance of which was the responsibility of the traditional village officers, the Patwari and Patel. With the initiation of the green revolution in the 1960s and subsequently the abolition of the Patwari-Patel system [10] in the 1980s, the agrarian practices and governance structure that supported the village tank system almost collapsed. Policy preference was for major irrigation, away from minor tank irrigation. Encouraged by official policy, Telangana saw a phenomenal rise in cultivation under micro-irrigation or bore wells, while the village tanks decayed.

The TRS government’s major policy initiative consisted of two flagship schemes, Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha, to address irrigation and potable water needs in the state. Mission Kakatiya was to revive the tank-based irrigation system, [11] in addition to undertaking a number of major and medium projects. Schemes supporting the farming sector like free power to agriculture, Rythu Bandhu (support to farmers to take care of initial farm investment) and Rythu Bima (Farmers Group Life Insurance Scheme to take care of crop loss), have contributed hugely to the pro-farmer image of the TRS regime - despite criticism that they benefit absentee land owners rather than actual tenant cultivators and cause a huge burden on the state exchequer.

In the case of AP, the TDP regime focused on the construction of a new capital city, Amaravathi, for which it held a grand inauguration. 33,000 acres of land were to be acquired in the highly fertile Krishna district in contravention of recommendations by the K. Sivaramakrishnan committee, which had been appointed by the Central government to recommend a site for the capital. A ‘land pooling’ scheme with the farmers “as partners in development” [12] was devised, attracting a huge resistance from the farmers and Opposition parties because the land is so productive and multi crop. This is one of the reasons for a delay in the execution of the capital. Added to this was the absence of any assured financial support from the Centre despite its previous promise of granting special status to AP with generous help for a new capital. For this reason the TDP left the BJP-led NDA alliance to contest the 2019 election on its own, contributing to its narrow defeat.

Electoral Populism and Welfarist Policies 

Both states have given detailed attention to social welfare measures. Undivided AP had a long tenure of populist regimes beginning in the mid-1980s with the TDP government of NT Rama Rao. During the second TDP tenure Chandrababu Naidu had held populist policies responsible for the state’s fiscal crisis and drastically cut them back. [13] The state subsequently experienced a crisis in the agrarian and artisanal sectors resulting in starvation deaths and suicides among the farmers and handloom weavers. This was attributed to the Naidu government’s neglect of these sectors in pursuit of pro-urban and pro-IT policies and his overriding focus on the expansion of Hyderabad city and its development as an IT corridor.

On a popular wave of discontent against the Naidu regime, the Congress had come to power in 2004 after a gap of a decade. The election results were shaped by a tension between economic reforms, on which there was a broad consensus cutting across ideological barriers, and the need to offset the distress caused by loss of livelihoods by the popular classes — farmers, agrarian poor, artisans, small producers and informal or unorganized sector people - whose support is required to win elections. With elections resting on narrow margins between victory and defeat, political parties have had to strike a balance between economic liberalization and welfare populism. [14] These electoral compulsions explain the rise of populist policy dispensation among regimes across the ideological spectrum in India, including AP and Telangana.

The populist character of the TRS regime in Telangana should be understood in this context. The wide range of populist schemes and policies put in place include the One Rupee kilo rice scheme, a mid-day meal scheme in government schools, and a list of pension schemes known as Asara (support) for old people, widows, single women and the physically handicapped. Support has also been given to vulnerable occupational groups like beedi workers (a majority of whom are women), weavers, and toddy tappers. There are schemes supporting populous occupational communities: a sheep supply scheme for the shepherd communities of Gollas and Kurmas, and fish for the occupation-based cooperatives of the Mutharasi, Besta and Gangaputras. Added to this is support given to bride’s families from poor Hindu and Muslim communities.

The TRS government’s performance has been remarkable. Implementation mechanismsensured effectiveness by specifically targeting social constituencies, their needs, reach and timing. Despite the ever-increasing cost of these schemes it can sustain them due to the relatively better fiscal position of the new state based on the wealth of Hyderabad City. This welfarist policy thrust has led to the TRS regime’s huge popularity and eventual electoral success. Particularly noteworthy is the unmistakable personalization of patronage in the persona of KCR, chief minister and head of TRS.

This is not to state that there are no inadequacies and limitations. Failure to deliver on high profile promises of two bedroom houses and three acres of land to landless SC and ST families has been high on the agenda of the Opposition, putting the TRS in an irksome position.

Further, regime performance in education is poor. This lacuna is conspicuous seen against the widely perceived narrative during the Telangana Movement attributing the region’s backwardness to its lag in education. Due to the critical role of the students of all levels in the Telangana struggle and the recognition by subaltern communities of education’s importance for social mobility, education has both material and symbolic significance. Despite its criticality the educational sector has suffered from lack of resources and weakened institutional leadership. Most conspicuous is the decline in the universities. The century old and largest university in Telangana, Osmania University, has been reduced to one-third of its sanctioned faculty strength of 1267. As it is located in the state capital this has had a demonstrative effect on the popular perception of the regime’s take on education. In fact the state of mofussil universities is much worse. All the universities have suffered from delays in appointment of vice chancellors. This neglect is perceived as deliberate in line with a policy thrust in favour of privatization of education.

AP under the TDP government has also seen a highly populist policy thrust. Most of the policies and schemes have been named after NTR, the founder of the party, and the CM Chandra Babu Naidu. To the long-standing subsidized rice scheme have been added the NTR Bharosa Pension scheme for the aged and the handicapped, Pasupukunkuma scheme in support of the women Self Help Groups (SHGs), Unemployment Allowance for Youth, and Chandranna Bima Yojana, an insurance scheme for workers. Similar to schemes in Telangana, the Chandranna Pellikanuka Scheme has been implemented to support the marriage of poor girls. AP has nearly matched Telangana in putting in place a welfare regime.

Welfare populism in these two states in particular and in south India in general has come to stay, for any move away would attract popular disapproval and invite electoral setback. It has not only been accepted as ‘normal’, but has increasingly assumed competitive proportions as the last few elections have demonstrated.

However, the TDP was not fortunate as the TRS despite its populism. Its electoral defeat by the YSRCP has to be seen against the backdrop of relentless campaign yatras by YSRCP leader Jagan. His promises to expand the welfare net to benefit an even larger number of people elicited enthusiastic support among the crowds attending his rallies. On the darker side, charges of nepotism, arbitrariness and corruption against prominent TDP leaders and suppression of the subaltern castes by the dominant caste elite associated with the TDP led enough voters to shift to the YSRCP in a very close election. After this defeat plan for the new capital of Amaravati has been sought to be replaced by the idea of three capitals in the state.

IV

Democratic Deficit and Party-Electoral and Civil-Subaltern Asymmetry 

The democratic prospects in these states are linked to changes in the civil and subaltern spheres and their relation to the party system and electoral politics. Two important developments can be noted both in Telangana and AP: first, a perceptible cooption, marginalisation and silencing of civil and subaltern voices and activism. Secondly, dominance of political society over the civil and subaltern spheres. Contrasted with the undivided AP the political-electoral usurpation of the civil-subaltern domains is starkly visible in the new states.

All the regions of the former AP have a long history of a vibrant civil sphere and dynamic subaltern activism. Civil rights, student, Dalit, women’s and environmental movements occupied center stage in debating policy issues, their implementation and impact on social and economic development. The debates led to serious contestations about rights, livelihoods, displacement, deprivation and empowerment. Subaltern activism was seen in all regions in the form of the Dalit movement in the 1980’s following the Karamchedu massacre of the Madigas in Prakasham district of AP, and movements of the artisans, handloom weavers and the backward caste communities.

The 1990s Telangana movement began as a non-party initiative and was sustained by an autonomous mobilisation by prominent civil society activists, and social and cultural organizations. They formed a plethora of non-party organisations and joint action committees (JACs) cutting across ideological and party denominations to keep up the movement. JACs of students, writers, artists, lawyers and doctors, employees, businessmen, farmers, and artisan communities came onto the streets, voluntarily organizing dharnas,rasta rokos and dheeksha shibiram employinga variety of innovative methods. Their participation forged a Telangana regional identity subsuming caste, occupation and community markers cutting across ideological and party loyalties.

The emergence of the TRS, formed in 2001 by K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), a dissident from the TDP, gave a political party face to the movement. Formed specifically to articulate the statehood demand, the TRS was unrestrained by other considerations and built a narrative that was focused, dense and unequivocally Telangana-centric. Because of this the TRS could grow into a major challenge to the two dominant parties, the Congress and TDP, especially after the state bifurcation influenced their electoral- political fortunes.

Many in the movement were skeptical of the TRS’ commitment to the Telangana cause. What informed this suspicion was previous experience with the Telangana Praja Samith (TPS), a break-away group of the Congress which had led the 1969 movement and won a huge victory in the 1971 parliamentary elections. Despite this massive popularity, its leader M Chenna Reddy had merged back into the Congress due to political considerations. This experience has remained in the popular memory as an instance of ‘betrayal’ of Telangana. It has contributed to popular skepticism of the commitment of the political parties and leaders as they could compromise for power. The continuous vigilance on the political leaders during the Telangana movement, especially by the students, acted as a check on the political class and can be credited as a critical factor in the achievement of the Telangana state.

How could such a vigilant and decisive civil society be subdued in the post-bifurcation period? The explanation lies in the TRS strategy of co-option, accommodation and domination over civil society. The attainment of statehood had brought an atmosphere of jubilation, optimism and reconstruction about building a new state of Telangana. The TRS made strategic use of this celebratory mood to bring critical and vocal elements — intellectuals, journalists, artists, youth leaders - into positions of power and responsibility, accomplishing a process of co-option. Historical experience is replete with examples, especially in new states resulting from protracted anti-colonial mass struggles, of the success of strategies of de-politicization through cooption of subaltern leadership, extension of favours and accommodation of their interests. The creation of a new state generates euphoria and the political party at the forefront of a movement enjoys sufficient social and political capital to subdue and discipline social forces.

But there are limitations to this process. The TRS has had an uneasy relationship with students and youth, which may explain its neglect of education. During the movement, the TRS consistently promised to address the problem of unemployment on a priority basis by filling vacant positions. Yet there are a vast number of vacancies pending especially in administrative and educational institutions. Given the number of students from rural, subaltern caste-class and first-generation literate backgrounds entering public institutions of higher learning, the neglect of the universities is seen as detrimental to these students’ aspirations. Added to mounting unemployment, this has led to discontent among students and youth.

In new Andhra Pradesh the marginalisation of civil society is also clearly discernible. Unlike in Telangana, social mobilisation on a long term and sustained basis was not present in AP, for the movement against bifurcation was largely reactive to developments in Telangana. But the intense competition between the TDP and YSRCP has kept the political space highly charged and polarized along caste and community lines. The continuous campaign mode of Jagan through his padayatras has kept the political sphere unduly magnified, denting the civil social sphere. With media attention, both print and electronic, polarized along party lines and overwhelmingly focused on the two competing parties, the agenda and even popular mood is influenced to view issues of importance in terms of the rival parties. Elaborate measures like the variety of pension schemes, unemployment doles, subsidies, etc., that should have opened up reasoned debate by civil and political associations on their advisability, feasibility, sustainability and possible impact on development are instead viewed only through partisan lenses.

Thus both post-division states have seen depreciation of civil society and shrinkage of the democratic space through the diluting, deglamourizing and rendering irrelevant of civil and subaltern concerns and activism through a politics of demobilization. To contain the social mobilization of a diverse section of social groups and their energies, the TRS adapted the strategy of accommodation and cooption of the active elements by deploying party and governmental resources. This can be characterised as the ‘Partyisation’ of political and social spheres. Rhetorical, symbolic, ideological and even institutional resources are molded in such a way that elections are drawn to the centre stage while the social and cultural politics that flourished in the Telangana movement have been pushed to the margins. The complex domain of politics is reduced to instrumental electoral politics.

The other important change is the weakening of political society. This has been done through a determined attempt to empty the TDP and weaken the Congress by enticing their members into the TRS, reminiscent of YS Rajashekar Reddy’s akarsh mode. The exodus of members of the TDP to a large extent and of the Congress to a lesser extent to the TRS is driven by the attraction of power politics and promise of positions and also the inability to withstand the pressures of being out of power. Many political leaders have business and commercial interests that need the support of the government. Systematic building up of the party in power and its supreme leader leading to one-upmanship and usurpation of political space has reduced the moderate middle ground.

The rise of regional parties in the states has led to the shrinking presence of national parties. As regional parties owe their emergence and strength to a strong leader, the idea of internal democracy is of no consequence to them. They display a strong supremo-centrism with claims of dynastic legacy rationalized and widely approved by party rank and file. Their political culture has an inbuilt anathema for inner party democracy. Further, they represent the ascendant position of party politics and a marginalization of civil society and even media, impacting on the quality of critical democratic debate on public issues. The consequences for a liberal democratic future in these states are of grave concern.

* (Author: Karli Srinivasulu Senior Fellow, ICSSR (New Delhi); Professor (Retd) Department of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad, Telangana)


[1The Hyderabad state comprised of the Telugu, Marathi and Kannada speaking areas and as part of the linguistic reorganization of states they were later merged in AP, Maharastra and Karnataka states respectively.

[2The Madras Presidency had two large linguistic regions of Telugu speaking Andhra and Rayalaseema and Tamil speaking region along with smaller Kannada and Malayalam speaking regions.

[3For an analysis of the 1969 Telangana movement, see, for instance, K Seshadri, (1970), ‘The Telangana Agitation and the Politics of Andhra Pradesh’, Indian Journal of Political Science, January-March;
Forrester, Duncan B (1970), ‘Sub-regionalism in India: The Case of Telangana’, Pacific Affairs, XLIII (1), 1970;

[4K Srinivasulu,‘Discourses on Telangana and Critique of the Linguistic Nationality Principle’, in Sudha Pai and Asha Sarangi (Eds), Interrogating States Reorganization: Culture, Identity and Political Economy in Independent India, Routledge, Delhi, 2011.

[5BPR Vittal, A State in Periodic Crises: Andhra Pradesh, Monograph 11, CESS, Hyderabad, March, 2010, see, Chapter 5 ‘The Telangana Surpluses- A Case Study’.

[6As a reaction to the Telangana movement and promises made in response to it there was the Jai Andhra movement in 1971 demanding separate Andhra state. These developments demonstrated the existence of gaps between these regions despite the decade of state’s existence. What seems to have preempted the cohesion was the fact that state formation was informed by a deep sense of distrust which instead of subsiding grew with time.

[7For an analysis of this process in the long term context of state politics with a focus on region, caste and class relation, see K Srinivasulu. ‘Region, Caste and Politics in Andhra Pradesh: Mapping the Paradigm Shift in the State Politics’ in MP Singh, et al (Eds), State Politics in India, Primus, 2016.

[8For a fairly well documented account of failure of the safeguards, see, Srikrishna Committee Report and especially, Chapter 7 titled ‘Sociological and Cultural Issues’ of the report, pp. 341-422.
For a critique of the report, K Srinivasulu, et al (2011), ‘Srikrishna Committee: Thorough But Unviable’, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol XLVI, No 10, March 5.

[9For an analysis of YSR padayatra politics and policy regime, see K Srinivasulu, ‘Political Mobilization, Competitive Populism, and Changing Party Dynamics in Andhra Pradesh’ in Paul Wallace and Ramashray Roy (Eds), India’s 2009 Elections: Coalition Politics, Party Competition, and Congress Continuity, Sage, Delhi, 2011 and also, ‘YS Rajasekhara Reddy: A Political Appraisal’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLIV, No 38, September 19, 2009.

[10M. Kistaiah (Ed), Administrative Reforms in a Developing Society, Sterling, Delhi, 1990.

[11For a discussion of this see, M Dinesh Kumar, et al, ‘Rejuvenating Tanks in Telangana’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 51, No. 34, August 20, 2016.

[12Dag Kolstø, ‘Amaravati: The Making of a Disaster Capital in Andhra Pradesh?’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol lIV No 20, May 18, 2019.

[13The crucial documents in this regard are: Government of Andhra Pradesh, (1996 a), ‘State Finances — The Actual Position’, Finance and Planning (FW) Department, June;
Government of Andhra Pradesh (1996 b), ‘Pattern of Expenditure on the Welfare Sector’, June.

[14For an analysis of these issues in the context of AP and Telangana, see, K Srinivasulu (2019), ‘Political Society, Caste Dominance and Subaltern Society: Reflecting on the Modes of Engagement with the Dalit Subalternity’ in Ashok Pankaj and Ajit Pandey (Eds), Dalits, Subalternity and Social Change in India, Routledge, London, 2019.

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