By temperament, M Kodandaram is the unlikeliest of men to lead a political agitation. Asked about him, his friends from academe and the civil liberties movement chuckle and say he is least likely to enter into any eyeball-to-eyeball and then, having entered one, extremely unlikely to back off.
They know him as Kodand, a quiet and shy man who would rather keep to himself. Until late 2009, he was known more as a professor of political science at Osmania University, a quiet organiser in the Telangana movement that has always been an undercurrent in the politics of Andhra Pradesh.
Today Kodandaram has emerged as the two major leaders of the Telangana movement, the other being K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti. They are foils to each other: if KCR is Machiavellian, Kodandaram plays the role of the keeper of the movement’s principles. If KCR is the hard negotiator with political adversaries and collaborators, Kodandaram is the idea-giver who works at knitting together a rainbow coalition of Telangana social groups.
Muddasani Kodanda Rama Reddy (born September 5, 1955) is the son of a farmer from Mancherial in Adilabad district. He graduated from the Warangal Government College and moved to Osmania University for a post-graduate degree in political science in 1975. He then he went to do M. Phil at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Somewhere along the line, Kodand joined the civil liberties movement and dropped the Reddy from his name and enlisted as a research scholar at Hyderabad Central University. He returned to Osmania University as a lecturer and took a doctorate in 2003.
Kodandaram’s adherence to a separate Telangana ideology was always known, and he worked hard to keep the movement alive all through the 1980s and ’90s when it was abandoned by political parties. As part of the Telangana Students and Intellectuals Forum he was a tireless campaigner.
Two things happened since then to propel Kodandaram to the centre of the movement. One was the launch of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti by KCR as a platform to achieve a separate state. The other was the U-turn done by the UPA government at the Centre after announcing steps towards a separate state in 2009. The upsurge of popular anger coalesced into the Telangana movement as we see it today, and it fell to Kodandaram to bring together the diverse castes and professional groups in Telangana in a grand coalition. When the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) was set up as an all-party steering committee of the struggle, Kodandaram was asked to chair it. His task is to coordinate protest activities with nearly 60 political and nonpolitical parties that span the entire spectrum, ranging from the BJP on the right to the CPI ML New Democracy on the left. He steered the movement in such a manner that the very mention of the Kodandaram’s name was enough to give nightmares to the government.
Lately, reports from within the movement suggest that there has been a divergence between KCR and Kodandaram, which the latter acknowledged last week. The divergence is this: Kodandaram believes that the way to achieve a separate state is through a people’s movement that brings the adversary to heel. KCR believes that it is possible to negotiate a separate state with the Centre, or specifically, the Congress high command.
Last week, Kodandaram organised a Telangana March successfully although KCR chose to be away in Delhi.