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Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 05, 2014
With the move to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh likely to cost it dear in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Seemandhra, the Congress has set its sights on a comeback in 2019. Sources in the party said the Congress is contesting the ongoing polls only to stay relevant in the region for the next five years.   In this period, it plans to rebuild the organisation from the grassroot level and be fighting fit for the next general elections.

Seemandhra will vote for 175 assembly and 25 Parliamentary constituencies on May 7.

From being a dominant force for decades — in 2009, the Congress won 107 assembly and 21 LS seats — the party has been reduced to the status of a fringe player in the region after it gave the go-ahead to the bill to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh and grant statehood to Telangana.  Hit by a mass exodus of its leaders and workers, the Congress is taking solace in the fact that some of its loyalists have stayed put despite “lucrative offers” from rivals.

One such leader is former minister Kanna Lakshminarayana, who is contesting the assembly polls from Guntur West, one of the few seats where the Congress is in contention. “I am a loyal soldier of the Congress. I will die as a Congressman,” he told HT. Lakshminarayana blamed former Andhra Pradesh CM N Kiran Kumar Reddy for the ‘mess’ the party is in.

Reddy quit the Congress and resigned as CM after the Telangana bill was passed in Parliament in February and formed his own outfit, the Jai Samaikyandhra Party. He is not contesting the polls this time.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh also recently said that its leaders in Seemandhra may have quit, but its workers are still with the party.

Now, the fight in Seemandhra is chiefly between Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) -BJP alliance.  Opinion polls have given the YSR Congress an edge, but Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP leaders claim their tie-up with the BJP and the popularity of the latter’s PM candidate, Narendra Modi, will see them through.