My blog post titled Telangana march- a first hand account was well received both by friends and netizens in general. This is my most popular post till date both on hits and comments.
A private visit to Vijayawada provides me an opportunity to provide a similar eye witness from the "other side".
Two of my colleagues and I just returned after spent a day in Vijayawada to attend a function. We arrived by an overnight train and checked into a hotel near the railway station. The function was just off Bandar Road, approximately half way between Benz Circle (the most important intersection in the city) and Kankipadu (the Eastern boundary). The drive in both directions gave sufficient opportunity to study the impact of the ongoing anti-Telangana "movement" (aka Operation Grab Hyderabad).
By an interesting coincidence, our visit date (August 30, 2013) was exactly one month after the Congress resolution in favor of Telangana. The "fast unto death" undertaken at the Chanchalguda jail by its most famous under-trial inmate, the Cuddappah MP YS Jaganmohan Reddy (Jagan), had been forcibly interrupted by the police the previous night.
A short while after landing, I overheard a conversation between two locals. It ran on the following lines:
· Individual 1 (a Jagan fan): what is happening about Telangana formation?
· Individual 2 (did not sport any outward political links): Have you ever been to Hyderabad?
· Individual 1: no
· Individual 2: why do you care then?
· Individual 1: Telangana people are getting their state. What are we getting?
· Individual 2: what do you want?
· Individual 1 (changing track): it would have never happened if YS (the late YS Rajashekhar Reddy) had been alive
· Individual 2: గాడిద గుడ్డేం కాదూ ("gadidaguddem kadoo" roughly equal to "nonsense")
We chartered an autorickshaw to go to our function. The autowala was an interesting soul who spoke most of the way (much like a New York or Bombay cabbie). When he lamented the ongoing bus strike, I suggested he should be pleased because it improves his earnings. He politely disagreed pointing out that the auto business depended mostly on people who reached the city by bus from nearby districts.
Before we hit Bandar Road, we encountered a small shamiana housing a relay fast by a group calling itself "Samaikyandhra Doctors JAC'. The shamiana size was just over a typical Hyderabadi pan shop. The modest size was adequate for the handful of individuals sitting there.
Before we reached Benz Circle, we saw three more shamianas. Two of these were manned by Government employees and had about 20 odd middle aged men. The third shamiana housing "friends of Vangaveeti Radha" relay strikes in support of Jagan's fast had just three people, the only youth we encountered in the "movement".
A small group of around 30 people were staging a rasta roko just after Benz circle. I thought this was a strategic location being right opposite the Enadu office (if you save time for the press they will reciprocate in kind by providing good coverage). We had to make a slight detour that added around 5 minutes to our journey time.
There were two more shamianas after Benz Circle. The one outside Siddartha Engineering College had around 15 male staff members but no students. Another one near the Tatigadapa Circle was smaller with perhaps 10 people.
The public spirit of the shamianawalas (or perhaps their modest expectations) was clear from the fact that none of these encroached on the road. All were well within the sidewalk & shoulder.
There was no shamiana outside the Telugu Desham Party (TDP) office.
I counted 6-7 large size banners on the way. A couple of these belonged to the TDP while the rest were put up by the Congress. TDP also put up a couple of banners welcoming their party supremo Chandrababu Naidu without mentioning the present agitation. TDP office had a few large anti-Telangana posters but these were all inside the compound and therefore not prominently visible to passers by.
The road dividers along the entire stretch were decorated with small posters spaced at around 100 feet. Just under half of these were put up by one Devineni Avinash, son of Congress politician Devineni Rajashekhar alias Nehru. The others were all non political with birthday wishes to movie actor turned politician Chiranjeevi hogging the limelight. Birthday wishes to actor Mahesh Babu and commercial posters contributed the rest.
Avinash's posters had the photograph of the late Potti Sreeramulu apart from himself. Looks like he does not agree with his party leader Tulasi Reddy's contention that Sreeramulu was never linked to the formation of Andhra Pradesh. Given his family's naming/nick naming conventions, I was surprised to see Nehru giving up the tradition of naming their progeny after national leaders. Or perhaps there was indeed a great freedom fighter called Avinash about whom I am ignorant.
On the way back, the situation changed to some extent. The rasta roko opposite Enadu ended. The Tatigadapa crowd disappeared totally while the three Jagan (or Radha) fans had left for the day. The shamiana's beauty was enhanced greatly by a solitary homeless individual taking shelter from the sun. Three other shamianas had shrunk to a half of its previous strength.
One shamiana housing a relay strike by Government employees had grown quite a bit. There were around 50 people who continued to exhibit the same public spirit of not obstructing traffic. My initial surprise vanished as we came closer: Lagadapati Rajagopal, the Andhra businessman-cum-politician was addressing the group. I could not catch what he spoke as we breezed past at a high speed.
The action was almost entirely run by men past their youth. There were no women and very few young folks.
Someone I met at the function said a trade bandh was on. I was thankful for this information as there was no way I could have figured this out on my own. Just a handful of stores near Benz Circle were closed or operating under half shutters.
Unfortunately for us, we missed a couple of important events. Two senior railway trade union leaders retired on this day. Their respective parties tool out rallies in felicitation. According to a reliable eye witness, the smaller of the two attracted over 300 people. The banners announcing these events were more numerous and larger than that of the anti-Telangana folks.
Thirty days after the Congress's Telangana resolution, the biggest political news in the political capital of Andhra, is that two senior leaders of rival railway trade unions retired on the same day.
Wishing you a peaceful, joyous & healthy retired life, gentlemen!