Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) chief Chiranjeevi on Sunday merged his organisation with the Congress, which is likely to regain much of its lost political ground in Andhra Pradesh.
"We have decided to merge our party with the Congress," Chiranjeevi said after a 50-minute meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Andhra Pradesh, where the party is in power, is crucial for Congress. The state sent 29 Congress MPs in 2004 and 33 in 2009. But the past 17 months — starting with the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) in September 2009 – have pushed the party to a position where it has to protect its flock from the twin threats posed by YSR's son Jaganmohan Reddy and the Telangana agitation.
In a 294-member assembly, Congress has a wafer-thin majority with 155 MLAs
Of this, 24 are aligned with Jagan
Praja Rajyam Party with 18 MLAs (two of whom are with Jagan) can rescue the govt with the help of All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) with 7 seats.
Blow to Jaganmohan: Recently Jaganmohan paraded 24 Congress MLAs in New Delhi, creating panic in the party, which has a thin majority of 155 seats in the assembly of 294.
Now, with 18 PRP MLAs, including Chiranjeevi, CM Kiran Reddy can breathe easy.
"The MLAs were aligning with Jaganmohan as there were doubts over the future of the Congress in the state. But today's development will put an end to such doubts," a senior leader from the state said.
Caste boost to Cong: The Congress has got its caste calculations right, too.
The PRP is identified with the Kapu community, to which Chiranjeevi belongs. It is a dominant caste group in five districts of coastal Andhra, where the PRP secured 23% of the votes in the 2009 polls.
With Chiranjeevi in, the party can regain the Kapu vote. It can also counter the Kamma community, still with the TDP.
Telangana question: Allying with Chiranjeevi, a proponent of a united AP, could send the signal that Telangana will have to wait. Chiranjeevi faces opposition in the region, where his films are boycotted. However, Congress MP Madhu Yakshi Goud said: "His entry will have no bearing on the Congress's decision on Telangana."
YSR-bashing: Chiranjeevi did not waste any time in launching an attack on former Andhra CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy, saying corruption was at its worst during his regime. "Corruption was at its worst only during the reign of the late CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy. I launched the party in 2008 on the plank of fighting corruption," he said.