Fearing that he might be cornered for criticising party chief Sonia Gandhi, Congress leader G Venkataswamy on Wednesday sought to recover lost ground by projecting himself as a supporter of the proposed state of Telangana.
On Tuesday he had launched an attack on Gandhi by criticising her “ineffective leadership” and raked up the issue of her Italian origin, a burning topic in the Lok Sabha elections of 1999.
Positioning himself as a fellow-traveller of the protagonists in the Telangana movement, Venkataswamy, 82, said his attack on the Congress leadership arose out of his fear that a new state would not materialise because of his party’s tie-up with actor Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party, which is opposed to any division of Andhra Pradesh.
“I am ready to take back my remarks and even touch her (Gandhi’s) feet if she accepts the demand for the Telangana state,” the Dalit leader said.
However, he said he would float a party espousing the Telangana cause if he was expelled from the Congress. “If I am expelled from the party, I will form the Telangana Congress to achieve a separate state,” he added.
Venkataswamy’s son, G Vivekanand, a Congressman who represents Peddapalli in the Lok Sabha, dissociated himself from his father’s anti-Sonia Gandhi statement, saying he did not agree with the comments and had faith in her leadership.
Meanwhile, Venakataswamy’s remarks evoked strong reactions from Congress leaders of the Telangana region. D Srinivas, who is also Andhra Pradesh Congress president, condemned his statement, saying there was a personal grouse behind it.
Ministers J Geeta Reddy, Damodar Rajanarasimha and K Venkat Reddy and MP V Hanumantha Rao asked Venkataswamy to leave the party if he had reasons to be aggrieved with it.
“Whatever he is today is because of the Congress. He became Union minister twice, his elder son was minister from 2004 to 2009 in the state and his younger son is an MP now,” said a youth Congress activist.
City police have tightened security at Venkataswamy’s residence after youth Congress activists threatened to storm his house.