US embassy cable - 05CHENNAI1582

MAOIST SCARE FORCES FIVE AP MINISTERS TO QUIT

Identifier: 05CHENNAI1582
Wikileaks: View 05CHENNAI1582 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Chennai
Created: 2005-07-07 10:45:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV PINR PTER IN Counter
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

071045Z Jul 05
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 CHENNAI 001582 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PTER, IN, Counter-Terrorism 
SUBJECT: MAOIST SCARE FORCES FIVE AP MINISTERS TO QUIT 
 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Revealing the muscle of the Maoists 
in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh (AP), five 
ministers of the Telangana Rashtra Samithy (TRS) quit 
the Congress-led state government on July 4.  Their 
decision, ostensibly to press the Congress to expedite 
the formation of a separate state in Telangana, is 
actually motivated by the threat of Maoist violence 
against the ministers themselves.  The continuing 
police killings of Maoists, particularly the July 1 
shooting of prominent leader Riyaz Khan, has made the 
TRS leaders jittery.  The TRS, however, will continue 
its alliance with the Congress at the Center, 
indicating that the party has not lost all hope of 
working with the Congress, particularly its High 
Command in Delhi.  The TRS ministers' quitting will 
not affect the stability of the Congress government in 
AP.  END SUMMARY 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
TRS MINISTERS QUIT, OPT FOR PATH OF AGITATION 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) On July 4, five of the six ministers of the 
TRS party, an ally of the ruling Congress both at the 
Center and the state level, quit the AP cabinet 
declaring their intent to take to the path of 
agitation to secure a separate Telangana state.  The 
state would be comprised of the ten northwestern 
districts in AP.  The sixth minister, Santosh Reddy, a 
former Congressman, initially refused to step down but 
will reportedly reconsider the decision later.  Harish 
Rao, one of the five ministers who resigned, told Post 
that the resignations are meant to put pressure on the 
Congress leadership to expedite the process of 
statehood for the Telangana region.  "We are deeply 
committed to Telangana statehood.  It is our party's 
single point agenda," Rao said.  He alleged that Chief 
Minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy had been ignoring the 
pleas of the TRS and going ahead with several projects 
against the interests of Telangana.  Asked what he 
considers the biggest roadblock to the formation of 
the state, Rao replied: "It is Chief Minister 
Rajasekhara Reddy." 
 
------------------------------ 
THE MAIN REASON: MAOIST THREAT 
------------------------------ 
 
3. (SBU) Although Harish Rao discounted the importance 
of an "ultimatum" the Naxalite Communist Party of 
India (Maoist) had issued to the TRS to sever links 
with the Congress governments before June 15, Post's 
contacts believe that the Maoist pressure was the main 
factor that prompted the TRS ministers' resignations. 
A final decision on acceptance of the resignations 
will be made after the Chief Minister returns from an 
international trip on July 12.  Senior Congress leader 
and Irrigation Minister Lakshmiah Ponnala listed the 
Naxalite threat as the most important reason behind 
the TRS decision.  "They obviously wanted some 
shelter", Ponnala told Post, adding that the TRS may 
well reconsider the decision later.  W. Chandrakanth 
wrote in the Hindu of July 5: "Stepped up police 
activity against the Naxalites that provoked them to 
issue ultimatums to the TRS leaders to quit, and the 
delay in the submission of the United Progressive 
Alliance Sub-Committee's report on Telangana are now 
seen as the prime reasons for the TRS decision to 
precipitate the matters." 
 
------------------------------------------ 
HEAT ON MAOISTS, AND TELANGANA POLITICIANS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
4. (SBU) Like the TRS, the state's Maoists, too, are 
pressing for a separate Telangana state.  Both operate 
in the same geographical area, which comprises 42% of 
AP, but the Maoists do not directly participate in 
elections.  Several journalist contacts have told Post 
of the tacit support the Maoists extended to the 
Congress-TRS combine in the 2004 elections.  According 
to senior journalist Amin Jafri, the Congress-TRS 
coalition itself was forged due to the intervention of 
the Maoists.  After the peace talks between the 
Maoists and the GoAP ended inconclusively in October 
2004 and the Maoist leaders pulled out of talks in 
January 2005, however, the police intensified anti- 
Naxalite operations and the Congress/Maoists 
relationship became strained.  The TRS was caught in 
between.  According to TRS leaders' own public 
statements, they have been pressing the government to 
stop the "all-out offensive against them in violation 
of its election promise to bring peace." 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
"KILL ME, NOT MY PARTYMEN", APPEALS TRS LEADER 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
5. (SBU) It is in this context that the CPI (Maoist) 
set the deadline on June 15 for the TRS to quit the 
alliance with the Congress.  Three days later, the 
Maoists killed TRS leader Nagabhushan in Karimnagar 
District, sending shivers through the TRS hierarchy. 
Hundreds of TRS lower rung leaders quit their local 
government posts.  TRS founder, leader and Union 
Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao made an appeal to the 
Maoists through the media not to harm the party 
workers.  "Kill me first if you want.  We are very 
close to our goal through the political process and 
quitting the posts at this juncture will harm the 
cause."  According to a Deccan Herald report of July 
4, the Maoists have so far killed three TRS men to 
send the message that they mean business. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
NAXALITE LEADER'S KILLING CHANGES SCENARIO 
------------------------------------------ 
 
6. (SBU) The TRS leaders' plan to lie low and buy time 
received a jolt on July 2, when a prominent Naxalite 
leader, CPI(ML-Janashakti) Central Committee Member 
Riyaz Khan alias Venkateshwarlu and three associates 
were shot dead by the police.  Riyaz Khan had directly 
participated in the peace talks with the government 
and had been widely seen as one of the top leaders of 
the Maoist groups in AP.  Although the State Director 
General of Police Swaranjit Sen declared that it was 
the result of a genuine encounter, Maoists and civil 
liberties groups described it as a cold-blooded 
killing.  Media reports indicate that TRS senior 
leaders held long discussions in New Delhi with party 
President Chandrasekhar Rao in the aftermath of the 
killing before deciding to withdraw from the AP 
cabinet. 
 
---------------------------------- 
WATER DISPUTES AND "LADY AMITHABH" 
---------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Although not as critical as the issue of the 
Maoists, the TRS and the Congress have developed 
differences on other issues as well.  For example, the 
TRS leaders view several new irrigation projects as 
depriving the Telengana area for the benefit of the 
coastal Andhra districts.  Amin Jafri pointed out that 
Chief Minister Reddy disregarded TRS protests and went 
ahead launching the project work, embarrassing the 
allies.  "The majority of Congress legislators, 
including several of them from the Telangana area, 
support Reddy", said Jafri. 
 
8. (SBU) To add to TRS' woes, Telugu movie actress 
Vijayashanti, who has carefully cultivated the image 
of an angry activist and earned the soubriquet "Lady 
Amithabh" (Bachchan), has entered the fray of 
Telangana campaigners.  According to Minister Ponnala 
Lakshmiah, Vijayashanti is threatening to take away 
the supporters of TRS, after she quit the BJP in May 
2005 promising to launch a peoples' movement to fight 
for a separate Telangana.  Media reports indicate that 
some Maoist leaders have extended support to her. 
Amin Jafri believes that a jaded movie star like 
Vijayashanti cannot have much impact although several 
other journalists are not yet willing to write her 
off. 
 
-------------------------------- 
TRS HOPES FOR RELIEF FROM CENTER 
-------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) The two Union Ministers of the TRS, including 
party President Rao, have not resigned from the 
central cabinet.  Justifying the decision, Harish Rao 
mentioned that the TRS views the multi-party UPA 
government at the Center as qualitatively different 
from the Congress-dominated AP government.  The TRS 
leaders seem to harbor hopes of intervention and 
relief from the Congress High Command.  "The UPA 
allies in general prefer to deal with the Congress 
High Command and not the state leaderships", observed 
Jafri. 
 
------------------------------------- 
MAOISTS MAKING AND BREAKING ALLIANCES 
------------------------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) COMMENT: The resignation of the TRS 
ministers indicates the success of the terror tactics 
of the Maoists in Telangana, as well as the 
frustration of Telangana statehood aspirants with lack 
of progress on that front.  But because the Congress 
party commands a comfortable majority in the state 
assembly without TRS support, Chief Minister Reddy is 
not unduly upset by the developments.  On the question 
of the Telangana state, however, all eyes are on the 
strategy of the Congress High Command.  The majority 
of state Congress leaders from the coastal and 
Rayalaseema areas of AP, as well as the leftist allies 
of the party, are opposed to the bifurcation of the 
state as is the opposition TDP party.  Right now, the 
best the Congress party can hope for is to buy time on 
the issue while trying to keep Telengana statehood 
hopes alive.  END COMMENT 
 
CANDADAI 

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