Telangana poll worries forced Congress hand

  • Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Feb 19, 2014 01:40 IST

The Congress ignored repeated threats of being wiped out in Seemandhra and went ahead with the process of creating Telangana with the hope that the state-in-making would salvage its tally in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

Pushed by chief Sonia Gandhi, the party demonstrated on Tuesday that it was prepared to go ahead, whatever the cost, and accede to the long-pending demand for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

The party has expelled six of its MPs from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra, jointly referred to as Seemandhra. Its chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy who has defied the party publically is expected to resign in protest on Wednesday. HT was first to report Reddy’s plans to quit.

Andhra Pradesh was instrumental in the Congress coming to power at the Centre in 2004 and then again in 2009. It won 29 of the 42 Andhra Lok Sabha seats in 2004. The tally went up to 33 five years later. The Congress’s success at the Centre coincided with assembly wins.

Fear of electoral wipe out in Seemandhra did force the Congress to go slow on Telangana. It took almost 10 years for the party to fulfill the promise made by Gandhi at a 2004 poll rally in Karimnagar district.

The leadership eventually realised that any further delay would adversely hurt the party’s poll prospects in the entire state as its opponents — Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party of Jaganmohan Reddy — had gained a lot of ground in Seemandhra that accounts for 25 Lok Sabha seats.

Bracing for a difficult elections, the Congress is eyeing a major chunk of 17 Lok Sabha seats from the proposed new state but will have to share the political space with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

Congress leaders are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao doesn’t play a spoilsport. They are upset that he is yet to keep his promise to merge the TRS, which is projecting itself as the champion of the new state, with the Congress.

On the other hand, the BJP is looking at long-term gains in Telangana, from where it has three MLAs. The support for the Telangana bill came after an assessment within the BJP that it would benefit from polarisation of Hindu votes, as other parties, including the Congress, were counting on Muslim votes.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj ‘s remarks say it all. “I would like to let the children of Telangana know that it was not only Sonia amma who got them a separate state but this Chinamma  also contributed,” she said referring to herself.


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