When PV Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister in 1991, Andhra Pradesh celebrated.
Such was the mood in the state that Telugu Desam Party leader N. T. Rama Rao did not put up a candidate against Narasimha Rao when the latter contested from Nandiyal in the same year.
It was during the premiership of the Telugu Bidda (Telugu son) that the star of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy rose. A dissident Congressman during those days and even later until he became Andhra Congress president, Reddy put down dissidence with an iron hand. Though the popularity of Reddy could conceal dissidence, the factor is relevant in the party. Dissidence on the part of leaders in Telangana and those who were denied cabinet berths can now come to the fore.
The pivotal role that Reddy played in reviving the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and bringing the party to power at the Centre in 2004 and 2009 was acknowledged by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who paid a rich tribute to the deceased leader while briefing the media after the Congress Working Committee meeting, with the party flag behind them at half mast.
“YSR, as the Prime Minister said, was a stellar leader who was managing the high command and Sonia Gandhi allowed him the freedom to control dissidence. It might not be the same now,” said K. Nageshwar, professor of journalism and member of the legislative council.
But Sonia should help the party manage such issues. There could be an impending crisis but not a disaster as of now, he added.
The Congress has 156 members in the 294-member state assembly. But it has Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s support of seven members. Though turbulence can be there in the Congress and in state politics, it might not lead to elections in the foreseeable future.
Besides the threat of the revival of factionalism, the other challenge for Reddy’s successor would be to carry forward his vision of development. “Reddy was a model chief minister as far as developmental projects were concerned … he knew how to get them implemented,’’ said Vilasrao Deshmukh, heavy industry minister.
With projects involving thousands of crores lined up, his successor will have to keep up the hectic pace that Reddy had set.