Prof K Jayashankar with K. Chandrashekar Rao during Telangana stir
K. Chandrashekar Rao, the founder of Telangana Rashtra Samithi, was undoubtedly the epicentre of the decade-old sustained agitation for a separate Telangana state, but a few others played a significant role, either directly or indirectly, in turning the dream into a reality.
N. Vamsi Srinivas recollects their contributions:
Prof. Jayashankar: The Telangana idealogue who envisioned it
Fondly called "Jayashankar sir", the academician, who is highly respected across the spectrum, dreamt about statehood for Telangana all through his life and was among the first to realise the importance of educating people of the region to prepare them to struggle for statehood.
Active in the first round of agitation in the 1960s as a student, Jayashankar continued his efforts, unmindful of their impact, to propagate the injustice meted out to Telangana.
He wrote books and encouraged others to write on various issues concerning the region. He addressed countless meetings and widely toured the region for decades. An astute strategist, K. Chandrashekar Rao, the current Chief Minister of Telangana, played the right chords by portraying the Professor as his guru, as part of efforts to bring legitimacy to his political struggle, as well as the newly formed outfit Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Notwithstanding rumours of differences between the two during the course of agitation, Jayashankar fully backed Chandrashekar Rao, who, he believed, was a beacon of hope to translate the dream into reality. He died of cancer three years before Telangana was carved out.
Prof. Kodandaram: Face of the political joint action committee
A well-known figure in human rights activist circles, Prof. Kodandaram shot into prominence after the Chandrashekar Rao-orchestrated political Joint Action Committee chose him to head the agitation. Within days of the December 9, 2009 statement on initiating the process of formation of Telangana, then Congress-led UPA government diluted the same and constituted the Justice Srikrishna Committee to study and suggest various options. Chandrashekar Rao swung into action swiftly and roped in all mainstream political parties into the JAC and as part of the strategy, suggested the name of Kodandaram for the apolitical appeal. Earlier, he worked in the civil liberties movement and was actively coordinating students' and employees’ agitations for Telangana before the JAC came into existence. He parted ways with KCR post-bifurcation and differences got so widened that he floated his own political party and made a few unsuccessful attempts in electoral politics.
E.S.L. Narasimhan: Took charge as incharge 1st citizen
A retired police officer having vast experience in intelligence gathering, E.S.L. Narasimhan was chosen as incharge Governor of Andhra Pradesh sometime in December 2009, when incumbent N.D. Tiwari resigned following a sex scandal involving him made headlines. Within a month, he was made full-time Governor. He virtually took the reins of the state at a time when the politically weakest Chief Minister, K. Rosaiah, reduced governance to a nonchalant activity and Telangana agitation reached its peak.
Officials who worked closely with him say that Narasimhan managed the law and order situation tactfully, yet firmly. While it is widely rumoured that he was in favour of bifurcation, his aides describe him as a student of the old school of thought that believes in following the orders in a hierarchy.
He merely implemented the agenda of the Centre with his own plan of action, without letting the law and order get out of hand.
Even after a change of guard at the Centre, Narasimhan continued to be the Governor of both states, apparently to ensure the smooth transition of division.
Kalvakuntla Kavitha: Unifier of women of the region with ‘Jagruti’
After K. Chandrashekar Rao, the most impactful leader from then Telangana Rashtra Samithi during the separate statehood agitation was his daughter Kavitha, thanks to the cultural integration she brought in through her organisation ‘Jagruti’.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the traditional festival of flowers ‘Bathukamma Panduga’ became so popular that every Telangana woman took pride in participating in the celebrations. It became an integral part of the agitation with protesters, at one stage, irrespective of gender, carrying Bathukamma as a symbol of revolt against oppression. Bathukamma Panduga became what Ganesh immersion was to the freedom struggle in Maharashtra.
K. Rosaiah: Figurehead amid the political chaos
A veteran in Telugu politics and number two in several Congress governments, Rosaiah got an unexpected opportunity to head the state following the sudden demise of incumbent Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy in a chopper crash in September 2009.
The internal strife in Congress was at its peak, with YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy too staking claim for the top post and continuing to be a thorn for Rosaiah, who had no control over the administration, Cabinet or party legislators. Congress leaders from Telangana opposed to Jagan impressed upon the party's high command that stoking regional emotions would help weaken Jagan.
On the other hand, T employees started a pen-down strike, opposing declaring Hyderabad a free zone and K. Chandrashekar Rao went on an indefinite strike and gave a call for a "Chalo Assembly" on December 10. It was a free-for-all and Rosaiah too turned nonchalant which came in handy for the T protagonists. It also made the Congress high command firm up its decision to divide the state and issue the famous December 9 midnight statement of initiating the process for division by then Union minister P. Chidambaram.
Dhoom Dhaam with a bang
If once-a-revolutionary-balladeer Gaddar's Podustunna poddu meeda nadustunna kalamaa became the virtual anthem stirring the soul of Telangana, lyricist Mittapalli Surender's Raati bommallona koluvaina shivuda, highlighting the sacrifice of lives by Telangana youth, had everyone in tears and Rasamai Balakishan's Telangana dhoom dham brought people to the streets.
Leave aside politics, the song and dance, canonised as both the story and spirit of agitation, galvanised masses into action, aroused latent emotions, exhilarated, activated and energised all social groups. The opponents of bifurcation had to admit that the key factor for the lack of emotional bonding for the unified state slogan is the absence of cultural awakening among people from the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.