Delhi chief Minister Shiela Dikshit returning to power for a third consecutive term could force the Congress to accept strong regional leaders, though the party has been historically averse to the idea.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajshekhar Reddy, the next one to face elections, has already asked the leadership to allow him a free hand in managing the elections due in April-May 2009, along with the general elections. “In Delhi, Shiela Dikshit was given full freedom. If YSR, too, is given freedom, he would work wonders,” said portal www.ysr.in, run by people to close to the CM.
Andhra is crucial to the Congress calculations of returning to power in Delhi — the party’s alliance had won 36 of 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state in 2004. Of the Congress strength of 150 in the Lok Sabha, 30 are from Andhra Pradesh.
Speaking to HT, Reddy said the Congress tally would go up to “at least 37”, but skirted the issue of seeking an autonomous role. “Local leaders do understand issues better, but leaders are not dropped from heaven. They are product of a process and a political party.”
V. Arun Kumar, MP and Congress Working Committee member from the state said: “The CM’s style and personality is going to be a deciding factor, but he has never defied the wishes of the high command.”
Reddy’s poll plank is a slew of welfare measures — which he says has touched every family in the state — all of them named after Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. “The AP government gives old age pension to 71 lakh people — that’s more than half of the beneficiaries for the entire country,” he said.
Dikshit’s victory underscores the decisive role an assertive regional leader can play. The Congress returned to power in the state in 2004 after a decade in wilderness largely due to Reddy’s leadership. “Central leaders in-charge of the state, first Gulam Nabi Azad and then Digvijay Singh, allowed him to function freely. Now Veerappa Moily is in charge and his style is not clear yet,” a leader said.