Free zone issue has come as an instant political weapon for Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief, K.Chandrashekhar Rao who is under duress from quite some time since his lacklustre performance in the recent elections. The shrewd political leader KCR could see the potential in the issue that has a direct bearing on the sentiments of Telangana Youth. KCR infact, handled the whole issue in a very clever manner. Instead of leading the struggle from the front line, KCR deliberately chose to allow the employee organizations to take the initiative. This strategy disarmed his political critics. His political adversaries cannot come heavily on the moves of KCR as a large number of employee organizations are involved. The Siddipet meeting helped KCR to restore the strained relations between TRS and employee organizations. Thanks to free zone issue, KCR could launch a fresh political battle. It seems this issue has a potential to provide a fresh lease of life to TRS chief who has been the veteran of several such battles.
The Telangana sentiment is particularly strong among the educated youth and employees. Infact these were the torch bearers of Telangana separate State movement. In the recent past these sections were annoyed with the style of functioning of KCR. Measures taken by YS Rajashekhar Reddy government like setting up of Pay Revision Commission, announcement of interim relief, allotment of house sites, increments for teachers etc., have endeared the congress to employee sections. These sections voted in favour of Congress even in 2009 elections. It was rather a strange paradox. On one side Telangana supporters considered YS Rajashekhar Reddy as the principal enemy of Telangana cause. On the other hand policies of congress government had sympathetic influence on the employee section and even the educated youth. Same is true with rural poor who favorably reacted to several welfare measures initiated by congress government. Even K.Rosaiah led congress government also pursued the same path. Despite serious economic situation, Rosaiah government released fresh round of DA due to employees. The employees in the Telangana region also had a soft corner for Congress government policies though sizable sections among them have been very critical of this party’s stand on Telangana.
The TRS performance especially the style of functioning of its leader KCR and the party failure to take up people’s issues alienated a large section of people including employees and the educated youth.
As a result of all this, the elections in Telangana were a rude shock for TRS. Its alliance with TDP also did not go well with these sections who are the vocal supporters of Telangana State cause.
Exactly against this complex political background, the issue of Free zone came to the fore. The Supreme Court declared Hyderabad city as Free zone in its latest judgment. But, this applies for only city police recruitment. The Supreme Court judgment simply reflected what was said in the Presidential order which exempted city police from the zonal system.
The Free zone means any body from the State can compete for the recruitment in Hyderabad city. Which would otherwise be open for the local candidates from the sixth zone like Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Mahabubnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad districts. The youth from these districts will loose opportunities if Hyderabad is a free zone. This is precisely the reason for popular response to the TRS tirade on the issue. By taking up this issue, TRS chief wants to come out of yet an another criticism on him that he is not responding to public issues.
Hyderabad falls under the sixth zone for all other recruitments. How can police department have a special status? The State government said that it would file a review petition in Supreme Court. But, it failed to spell out its strategy if the apex court reiterates its judgment. Infact, this is most likely to happen as the court will go by the letter of the presidential order. Which exempts city police from the sixth zone and makes city free zone’ for police recruitment. The TRS is cleverly capitalizing on the irrationality in declaring Hyderabad as free zone as far as police recruitment is concerned.
The 610 G.O. has been continuously violated much to the disenchantment of Telangana people. Earlier, education department also talked about of the so called free zone. All this created an apprehension among Telangana youth that the free zone controversy will not be confined to police recruitment only but would be extended to other recruitments in future. Thus, wide range of protest over the free zone issue.
Meanwhile, the stand of other parties also comes in handy for TRS. The BJP which claims to be a protagonist of Telangana cause is conspicuously silent on the free zone controversy once again demonstrating its political opportunism on the Telangana issue. The TDP is ambivalent though it states that Hyderabad is part of sixth zone. The Praja Rajyam is still undecided over the issue as it fears a backlash in the Andhra region which is its principal support base. The congress as usual is on a slippery ground. Given this ambiguity in the major parties, the TRS could easily steer the movement on the issue of Free zone. Obviously a political party takes up an issue which favours it. The TRS did so. If the ruling congress wants to checkmate the TRS, its hold comes with a committed response. It should take necessary legal, constitutional measures to free Hyderabad from the Free zone for ever.
Note: This article is originally written for Deccan Post
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