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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

In a state over a state in Andhra

Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times   January 09, 2011
First Published: 23:04 IST(9/1/2011) | Last Updated: 17:23 IST(5/6/2011)

It seems that all is over for the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. The recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee report made public on Thursday have complicated matters further. Instead of finding a solution to a problem created by a premature announcement about the creation of a separate state of Telangana on December 9, 2009, the committee has made things worse. Not that anyone expected the Srikrishna panel to come out with a magical solution. But the Congress and the TDP, the two main players in the state till now, will have a lot to worry about.

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The possibility of a revolt in the grand old party over this is already being speculated upon. Whether that happens or not, the Congress, which came to power at the Centre on the strength of seats it got in Andhra Pradesh both in 2004 and 2009, is on a sticky wicket.

The Congress has been defeated in the polls even earlier on account of its own dissensions. But this time around, it is riding a tiger it cannot dismount and both the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and its chief K Chandrasekhar Rao and former chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s son, Jaganmohan, find themselves sitting pretty as the state is going through its worst crisis.

It is difficult to understand why the core committee of the Congress made this announcement on party president Sonia Gandhi’s birthday in 2009, when the mandate in the parliamentary and assembly polls held a few months earlier under the overall leadership of YSR was for a unified Andhra Pradesh. If this was done to marginalise Jaganmohan Reddy, it was foolish. Jaganmohan was in the Congress and should have been brought on board along with other key elected members of the state while the matter was being deliberated in the party.

It is being said that some top party leaders who were ignored by the late YSR during his lifetime and whose egos had been bruised influenced this decision. Another somewhat unbelievable theory is that some key Congress leaders who do not wish party general secretary Rahul Gandhi to assume more power strategised on how to keep him weak and dependent. But theories like this will obviously gain credence in the absence of any concrete plan to quell trouble in the state, which has been its main force during the past two parliamentary polls.

The logic initially given was that Chandrasekhar Rao’s fast had influenced the Congress decision. In fact, by announcing a separate state of Telangana, the Congress leadership strengthened Rao who was losing ground after YSR had marginalised him completely in state politics. What seems to be happening now is that both Rao and Jaganmohan are gaining ground in their respective areas at the expense of the Congress.

Had YSR’s politics been continued, there was a possibility of even actress Vijaya Shanti, a charismatic figure, joining the Congress. Now Rao too cannot afford to concede any ground since the entire Telangana region, particularly the students of Osmania and Warangal universities, will ensure that he stays where he is.

There also appears to be a tacit understanding between Jaganmohan and Rao that they would not cross swords for the time being and continue to agitate in their respective strongholds — Rao in Telangana and Jaganmohan in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.

For the majority of Congress MPs and MLAs, the worry is that they may get edged out in this eventual struggle. In order to ensure their survival, they may have to devise a strategy. Even Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP seem to be at their wit’s end. The TDP is on verge of disintegration since its stand on the issue has been ambivalent.

For the Congress, the challenge is to remain relevant. If that does not happen, the repercussions created by Andhra politics will be felt both in the state and Centre. Between us.

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