The monsoon session of Parliament has brought with it a sinking sensation for the Congress as it finds itself increasingly unable to keep its head above the water. News that the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), which is fighting for a separate state in Andhra Pradesh, has swept 11 of 12 seats in the assembly by-polls makes it all the more difficult for the Congress to swim against the tide.
The government had managed to put the divisive Telangana issue on the backburner last year by first promising statehood and then referring the matter to the Srikrishna Commission. Any hopes that the demand had dissipated are disproved by this election. Humiliatingly, the Pradesh Congress Committee chief who had projected himself as a possible chief ministerial candidate lost overwhelmingly in Nizamabad.
In addition to the Telangana sentiment re-emerging stronger than before, the late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s son Jaganmohan Reddy seems to be thumbing his nose at the all-powerful Congress high command with his just-concluded consolation yatra with the veiled threat of breaking away from the party.
The only comfort that the Congress can draw from the situation is that though he has been drawing large crowds, political leaders have shied away from openly supporting him. But the demand to accommodate him at the Centre prior to giving him the chief ministership of the state is strong. All this means that the Congress’s vote share in this politically crucial state has dropped and issues which will come to haunt it later have got a fresh lease of life. Had the party installed a more charismatic CM in the wake of the death of the popular YSR, it might have been able to contain the crisis better.
But Mr Rosaiah is reluctant to even stay on in the job. This lays the field wide open for aspirants like Mr Reddy who feel that they have a better claim to the chair.
The indecision in the government and the Congress appears to have divided the state on both the Telangana issue and that of leadership. The Srikrishna Commission members rushing to the state now amounts to bolting the stable door after the horse has fled. It is clear that people are not willing to abide by decisions taken by a commission on Telangana. If the agitation flares up again, and there is no reason to believe it will not, it spells untold hardship to people in the state. The Congress should look for a lifeline unless it wants to slowly sink under the weight of these problems.