Fallen apart: KCR arrests one-time comrade Kodandaram for raking up old demands
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao aka KCR seems to have miscalculated the strength of close chum M Kodandaram. KCR and Kodandaram's camaraderie fell apart over the last two-and-a-half years.
There was “suppressed acrimony” in Hyderabad on Wednesday when the state throttled a brewing agitation, demanding jobs, led by Prof Kodandaram.
The midnight swoop by East Zone Police on his residence and the subsequent arrest of the professor and 40 others at 3AM went viral as a Facebook Live video. The former political science professor used the social media effectively, even as the traditional media was driven away.
The police broke open the doors to Kodandaram's residence, even as he was ready to get arrested after 6AM - he was already talking to Deputy Commissioner V Ravinder through a window. And yes, the police repaired his door and windows immediately after the arrest.
For the record, the police used both their mind and muscle to suppress the agitators from taking to the streets.
It was originally proposed that the government would be taken by surprise by egging on students and others agitators to descend on the police suddenly. Certain powers in the government, who had worked in the Telangana agitation earlier, had adequate experience and knowledge on the modus operandi of the agitators and those clues helped the police stop the agitators in their tracks.
However, students on the Osmania University campus burnt down the signage of the university’s upcoming centenary celebrations. Two students of Telangana Students Union – Sandeep Kumar and Jyothy – attempted self-immolation and suicide respectively to protest against the state’s apathy.
The effigies of the chief minister were burnt at Nampally by Telangana advocates and on the university campus by students.
Kodandaram’s wife Susheela and lawyer Rachana Reddy, who has been espousing all causes and taking up cases against the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government, tried in vain to approach Governor ESL Narasimhan demanding the release of the professor and others.
The police had lodged Prof Kodandaram at Kamatipura police station and a few others at Goshamahal.
Tactfully, the TRS media managers ensured that the vernacular media was “properly advised and addressed”.
The local TV channels went gaga over the chief minister’s tour to Tirumala, his offerings to Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi, his reception and related stuff with only a few occasional scrolls and mentions about the agitation in Hyderabad.
Though the local media apparently did not go tough against the KCR dispensation, national media, especially the Times Now Channel, ran discussions and talk shows on KCR splurging for religious reasons and laced it with information about the agitation.
The TRS regime has suddenly found its feet shaky on the national arena.
Demand for jobs
Demand for a separate statehood for Telangana was put forth on three basic tenets – funds, water and employment.
The Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC), headed by Kodandaram, a retired political science professor from Osmania University, projected the number of job vacancies available in the government as 1.37 lakh.
While 15,000 posts have been filled in by the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) over the last two and a half years, the state government has accorded permission to fill over 35,000 vacancies.
Kodandaram has chosen this as an issue that could kindle the right emotions among the jobless and ensure that they rally behind him.
His questions, raised soon after the police released him, in fact, irked the state:
“We have given notice to the government with a charter of five demands 20 days ago while seeking permission for the rally and dharna. The government had the opportunity to open a dialogue with us. These issues, in fact, need to be discussed and resolved. It is the bounden duty of the state to address the popular demands,” he said.
He strongly condemned the “police raid” on his residence and the way in which he was arrested. “The state had 20 days to negotiate and resolve the problems,” he said.
In fact, the city police denied permission for the rally and a dharna which was supposed to take place in the heart of the city at Indira Park.
The T-JAC eventually approached the high court and the police had suggested four different places on the outskirts of the city to conduct the rally and dharna. As if to deliver a master stroke against the administration, Prof Kodandaram had the petition in the HC withdrawn and decided to defy the police.
This led to the preventive arrests and heavy deployment of police forces on the roads that finally resulted in the agitation fizzling out.
Later, the professor said that the T-JAC actually withdrew the rally and dharna and sought permission to conduct a public meeting at the Nizam College Grounds. But the police refused permission for that also.
Rift between KCR, Kodandaram?
While KCR patronised Kodandaram and they rubbed shoulders during the agitation, differences cropped up soon after the elections.
Against the background of political bitterness, the chief minister, who offered several plum positions to many of those who had matched their steps with him during the agitation, had sent Kodandaram to the proverbial coventry.
The reasons cited for this deliberate act of giving a cold shoulder to the ideologue of the Telangana agitation are all too many. But the TRS insiders say that KCR, who reposed enormous trust in Kodandaram, felt “cheated” with the information that the latter had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi, along with a few other Congress leaders from the state, after the elections in 2014.
What had transpired between them, though not known publicly, has indeed ensured the deletion of the professor from the CM's good books.
While this was the trigger, the role of the political T-JAC in the byelections in Mahbubnagar that preceded the general elections itself caused the cracks between KCR and the professor.
Kodandaram had to resume teaching at a university college after the dust of politics settled down and KCR was sworn in. Though he seemed to have taken the humiliation in his stride, he had begun slowly building up dissent against KCR by raising a bogey on farmers’ suicides.
He filed a writ petition in the High Court of Hyderabad and cornered the TRS government over the farmers’ suicides. He was sceptical of KCR’s profligacy on religious rituals.
Kodandaram told this reporter that he did not want to denounce or snub the CM and his sentiments, but surely he was opposed to the splurge in the name of offerings to gods and other rituals.
The professor said this at a time when the chief minister had conducted the Ayutha Chandi Yagam more than a year ago in a rather grandiose manner.
The professor’s rationalist background and his association with extreme left wing ideology is known to all.
The Reddy factor
Though caste-based politics are not a political order in Telangana, leaders belonging to the dominant Reddy community have begun getting together, for their supremacy was challenged and they are out of power in Andhra and Telangana.
Therefore, most Reddy leaders in the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party and those in other outfits found a “credible alternative leader” in Prof Kodandaram.
The tacit support of the Congress was much too palpable when its cadres made #KCRFailedTelangana trend on Twitter on Wednesday.
In all likelihood, Kodandaram would be launching his political party with support from obvious quarters, after a few more agitations.
Now battle lines seem to have be drawn unless KCR takes immediate and effective corrective measures to annul the Opposition and neutralise the voices of dissent.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen