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Infighting may return to Congress party

india Updated: Sep 04, 2009 14:25 IST

IANS
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Yet to recover from the shock of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's death, Andhra Pradesh's ruling Congress seems to be heading towards infighting over the issue of finding a successor.

Within hours after YSR's body was recovered from the wreckage of his helicopter, his loyalists in the ministry and the party made a strong pitch to make his son YS Jaganmohan Reddy the next chief minister.

Though Finance Minister K Rosaiah, the senior most member of the cabinet, has been made the acting chief minister, central leaders clarified that it was a temporary arrangement to fulfil a constitutional responsibility.

YSR loyalists are demanding that his 36-year-old son be made the chief minister. They even passed a resolution in the cabinet meeting presided by Rosaiah Thursday evening urging the central leadership to make Jaganmohan the chief minister.

Minister for Forests P Ramchandra Reddy has even gone to the extent of threatening to split the party if Jagan, as YSR is popularly known, was not made the chief minister. Nearly half of the 34 cabinet ministers have said this would be the best tribute to YSR.

"It is the opinion of all ministers that Jaganmohan should be made the next chief minister as he alone can fulfil the aspirations of the people," said Health Minister D Nagender.

YSR loyalists among party legislators have launched a signature campaign in favour of their demand.

Government Chief Whip Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka has claimed that 122 out of 155 legislators have signed a memorandum appealing to the central leadership to make Jagan the next chief minister.

As many as 20 MPs also desire that Jagan be made YSR's successor. They held a meeting here and submitted a representation to Congress central leader and in-charge of party affairs in the state, M Veerappa Moily.

Moily parried questions in this regard saying it was not the time to discuss such things. He said the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) would elect its new leader.

However, party sources said the CLP would go by the choice of the high command. All eyes will be on Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Some feel that it will be difficult for her to ignore the demand of YSR loyalists.

Party sources said the leadership may not continue with Rosaiah though he was number two in the cabinet and has a political experience of 50 years.

Rosaiah, who has been a key guiding force for the YSR government on many policy issues, comes from Guntur district in coastal Andhra.

A non-controversial and low-profile leader, he has been a minister in successive Congress governments since 1979. He holds the record of presenting 15 budgets in the state assembly.

Unlike Jagan, who is a popular leader in Kadapa district like his father, 77-year-old Rosaiah has neither a mass base nor is he considered a heavyweight in the party.

While Jagan has the support among legislators, he is not experienced. He was elected for the first time to the Lok Sabha in May this year.

The young industrialist owns Sakshi Telugu daily and television news channel.

Although nobody has opposed Jaganmohan Reddy's candidature, the silence of senior leaders like party's state president D Srinivas indicate lack of unanimity on the issue.

Thanks to YRS's iron-like grip over the party, his image of a mass leader and the backing he enjoyed from the central leadership, he completed five years in office without any dissension or groupism which was a common phenomenon during previous Congress governments.

In fact YSR was the first chief minister in the state's history to complete full five years in office.