NEW DELHI: A day after the Union Cabinet approved statehood for Telangana, Congress faces large-scale desertions from its ranks in Seemandhra, but feels a favourable position in 17 Lok Sabha seats in the new state is a better option than a rout in united Andhra.
With the countdown to Telangana now underway, resignations poured in on Friday with Union tourism minister Chiranjeevi and minister of state for railways Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy quitting. HRD minister Pallam Raju and ministers of state D Purandeshwari and K Kruparani, too, announced their resignations though they are yet to be given time to meet the PM to put in their papers.
Congress MPs Arun Kumar, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, Anant Venkatrama Reddy and A Sai Prathap said they had quit the party.
Jagan anounces indefinite fast
Seemandhra leaders who met the PM were advised to wait, but might find it hard to reconsider their decisions given the pressure of public opinion and YSR Congress boss Jaganmohan Reddy’s strong pro-united Andhra campaign. Jagan Mohan has announced an indefinite fast in Hyderabad from Saturday against the Centre’s decision to divide Andhra.
In fact, some of those heading out of Congress are expected to gravitate towards Jagan Mohan, significantly weakening Congress in the non-Telangana regions that account for 25 Lok Sabha seats.
But Congress has backed the formation of the new state after carefully considering the consequences in a bid to redeem its prestige after the embarrassing December 2009 volte face and to capture pole position in one of Andhra’s regions. The choice, as an observer put it, was between a possible 17 seats and drawing a blank.
The Telangana option will, however, imply an alliance with Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s (TRS) charismatic but mercurial leader K Chandrasekhar Rao. While Congress’s bargaining power has risen due its decision to support statehood, an alliance may be needed to seal its gains.
Since the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who towered over the state’s politics, in 2009, Congress has been buffeted between the Telangana movement and Jagan Mohan’s mutiny, shredding its primacy in the state where it has 33 of 42 Lok Sabha seats.
For the anti-Telangana crowd, YSR Congress appears to be the only platform campaigning on a united Andhra plank and Jagan Mohan can milk this surge of support in the 2014 elections.
In an attempt to limit its losses, Congress appealed to residents of Rayalaseema and coastal areas to help in implementing the decision on statehood, promising an attractive package to develop an alternative capital for a reduced Andhra Pradesh.
“The group of ministers will also work out the modalities for the provision of special financial disbursement for setting up a new capital for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh and to meet the special needs of the backward regions and districts of the two states,” AICC spokesman Meem Afzal told reporters.
As it appears, Jagan Mohan seems to be gaining the upper hand in Seemandhra. The flip flop by TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, who wrote to the government in favour of Telangana before making noises to the contrary, seems to be helping the Reddy rebel. In the process, Congress and TDP may be squeezed out of Seemandhra challenge.
AP chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy appears to be in a bind. While he made rebellious noises in the run-up to the Cabinet decision, he seems to be recalibrating his stance, possibly because the people who rallied behind him have developed a preference for Jagan Mohan. Though the CM has lost the confidence of the party leadership, he would be loathe to work under his bete noire Jagan Mohan.
The chief minister’s actions are being closely watched since the Centre has to manage both the law and order in the state as well as the state’s cooperation in implementing the Telangana decision.