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Ad campaign heats up talk of Andhra CM's new party

india Updated: Jan 27, 2014 10:59 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

More than the debate over the Telangana bill, that is reaching a crescendo in the state assembly, people of Andhra Pradesh are curiously following an advertisement aired repeatedly on various Telugu channels these days.

In a voice far shriller than that of the MLAs from Telangana and Seemandhra region battling each other in the house, the two minute ad in a passionate ballad questions the rationale behind the division of the state and appeals the Telugus to remain united forever.

The Jai Samaikhyandhra ad does not mention the advertiser but displays a slogan – Samaikhyandhra maa vidhanam, Samaikhyandhra maa ninadam (United Andhra is our strategy, United Andhra is our slogan) – which is exactly the line professed by state chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, questioning his party Congress' decision to divide the state.

Simultaneously, large hoardings with pictures of Telugu-thalli (Mother Telugu) and Potti Sriramulu (a Gandhian who fasted unto death for the Andhra state in 1952) have appeared in Seemandhra districts, heating up talks of Reddy launching a new party soon.

The campaign seems to be supplementing efforts of Reddy's government which has been bringing out the "One Andhra Pradesh in India" ads in various local and national newspapers.

State's publicity department has denied it is political and said that the campaign, with a budget of over Rs. 2 crore, is an effort to showcase the "best governed state" award Andhra Pradesh received from the India Today Group recently.

The slogan, however, is strongly suggestive of the CM's integration line. The ad with a large picture of Reddy, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi pushed to a corner, published in New Delhi also looks like a message to the Congress leadership.

A senior official in the CM's office admitted the idea is intended to publicise the United Andhra stand taken by the CM.

"Whether he would form a party or not is secondary. But as of now, there is a need to publicise his crusade for keeping Andhra united."

Interestingly, much of the One Andhra campaign is run through an ad-agency linked to Reddy's brother Santhosh Reddy.

Thus, a media blitzkrieg appears to be preparing ground for the launch of the much talked about United Andhra Party, which could largely be a breakaway faction of Congress in the state.

Unconfirmed reports say that Reddy could take up its leadership, supported by party legislators like Lagadapati Rajagopal, in case the UPA goes ahead with the formation of Telangana.

Rajagopal, who opposed the bifurcation evoking instant fury in Telangana, is the founder of the Lanco Group and his name is doing the rounds as the person behind the Jai Samaikhyandhra campaign.

"The ads reflect our belief in unity of Andhra Pradesh," Rajagopal told HT, without denying his role.

Rajagopal even admits the pressure the Congress legislators, including him, are putting on Reddy to form a new party espousing the united Andhra cause.

According to a state minister close to the CM, Reddy is still undecided and as of now is focused on stalling the division process.

"Let us finish our agenda of stopping Telangana. We shall think about it (a new party) later," the minster quotes the CM as telling him.

Reddy now wants the centre to take back the Telangana bill.

However, the pressure is mounting on him to save the political careers of scores of Congress leaders in Seemandhra – a politically crucial region that has 25 MPs and 175 MLAs – that is up against state bifurcation.

"My surveys show that 63% of Seemandhra people are not willing to vote any of the three parties – Congress, TDP and YSRCP as they think all of them are responsible for the state's division," said Rajagopal hinting that the new party will succeed in the upcoming general elections.