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Who will blink first

The Congress doesn’t seem to know how to deal with Jagan Mohan Reddy’s campaign for the top post in Andhra Pradesh. Ashok Das writes.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2010 23:00 IST
Ashok Das

For the Congress, which has turned the art of managing rebellions into a fine art, party MP from Andhra Pradesh YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (38) is proving to be a difficult customer.

Party leaders, both in the state and at the Centre, are exasperated that Reddy, son of late chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy, crosses the party’s laxman rekha at his sweet will.

He defied the party the first time on May 28, when he launched his controversial Odarpu Yatra (tour to console family members of those who allegedly died of shock over YSR’s death) in Telangana, ignoring a warning from Veerappa Moily, the AICC in-charge for Andhra Pradesh. The yatra resulted in unprecedented violence and he was arrested and brought back to Hyderabad.

No action was taken against him. An emboldened Reddy launched the second phase of his mass contact programme from Srikakulam on July 8, despite a clear no from the party.

The high command again did not take any action, which emboldened Reddy further. He announced the launch of the third phase of his yatra from Prakasam district on September 3.

"He seems to be in a great hurry to become chief minister. The party hasn't forgotten the campaign launched by his followers to make him chief minister, even before his father's body had been interred," said a close aide of Chief Minister K. Rosaiah.

Reddy doesn't seem to have abandoned that plan. His statewide Odarpu Yatra is designed to create an atmosphere for his acceptance as the unchallenged leader in the state Congress.

"If any Congressman had said or done even 10 per cent of what Reddy did, he would have been history by now," a party leader from Telangana said.

The high command is aware that cracking the whip on the errant MP could make him a martyr among the late YSR's followers and lead to a split in the party's Andhra unit.

So, instead of going in for an open confrontation, the party on Tuesday decided to take the wind out of Reddy's sails by organising parallel odarpu yatras on YSR's death anniversary on September 2 and extend financial help of R 1 lakh to each bereaved family.

But this move by the party has not dampened Reddy followers. "Jagan's yatra is the real Odarpu Yatra and it will be launched in Prakasam district on September 3. There is no change of plan," said Ambati Rambabu, a senior leader who was suspended from Congress for supporting Reddy.

The question now is who will blink first.