Now that the hurly burly is done with Sunday’s mega- reshuffle, there will be many readings of the tea leaves. The UPA government is clearly in the mode to recover lost ground in the states where the real battle for India will be fought. The fact that it has given a record 10 berths to Andhra Pradesh in the Cabinet suggests that it is taking no chances in the state which sent the maximum number of Congress MPs to the Lok Sabha after the 2009 elections.
Given that it is hobbled in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it has to nurture Andhra Pradesh for the crucial numbers come the next election. Kerala is taken care of with the highest representation ever in the Cabinet. In Andhra, the composition of ministers from the state suggests that the UPA government is trying to get the caste equations right. And if all goes well, it will have succeeded. It has representation from the powerful Kapu caste in the personage of K Chiranjeevi. It has also sent out a signal that those Congress MPs from the state who have been backing a separate Telangana will not be given much weight but at the same time, the party is aware that it has to tackle this problem sooner rather than later. Now that is has a significant representation from the state, it is likely to take into account the views of those from different communities and different regions of the state to try and resolve the vexing issue. Many of the ministers from the state have already stated that they would go along with any decision taken by the Centre. This strengthens the UPA government’s hand if it has to handle the Telangana issue in the time left before the next general elections. It also gives it enough clout to take on the YSR Congress led by Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late and popular chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Jaganmohan Reddy initially rode on the wave of sympathy for his father but now he has become a force to reckon with in the state. This means that the Congress will either have to buy peace with him or have enough artillery to take him on come the next elections.
While, it has tried to secure Andhra, it has left out other large states like Orissa and Maharashtra. However, it has made efforts to get on board those who are inherently opposed to the Mamata Banerjee brand of politics in West Bengal. This will be a signal to volatile Mamata that the Centre is not holding its breath on her staging a comeback to the coalition any time soon. There are many lacunae in the reshuffle, but at the moment, the reading of the tea leaves suggests that things are going on course for the UPA. That is certainly some comfort after the bumpy months preceding the reshuffle.