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Infighting brews up in Andhra Congress for CM's chair

Even before the votes are counted, the Congress in AP is back to its old habit — infighting — this time on who will be the CM if the party wins.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Hyderabad
UPDATED ON APR 30, 2004 04:47 PM IST

Even before the votes are counted, the Congress in Andhra Pradesh is back to its old habit -- infighting -- this time on who will be the chief minister if the party wins.

The exit polls have predicted a majority for a Congress-led alliance, and this was enough for different leaders to stake their claims to the post of chief minister and start trying to scuttle each other's chances.

The infighting could spell trouble for the party, which is hoping to come back to power after nearly a decade and has promised to provide political stability.

Though appearing to be on the brink of defeat, the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is amused by the tussle in the Congress, which had three chief ministers between 1989 ad 1994.

There are still 10 days to go for counting of votes, but the top leaders have started throwing their hats in the ring.

In what could be a big blow to the party, some of them are even using the issue of Telangana to stake their claim to the top post.

What is interesting is that many top leaders claim that they are not in the race for chief minister's post and yet are making behind-the-scene attempts to mobilise support.

Two groups have emerged in the party for the top post. While one group is backing senior leader YS Rajasekhara Reddy, also known as YSR, the other is pitching for state Congress president D Srinivas.

Former central minister G Venkatswamy, who is apparently backing Srinivas, gave a new twist to the tussle on Thursday by suggesting to the central leadership that it should respect the sentiments of the people of Telangana by appointing a leader from the region to the chief minister's post.

Another senior leader from Telangana, V Purshottam Reddy, also announced that he was in the race while former chief minister N Bhaskar Rao and another key leader Dasari Narayana Rao are opposing YSR's candidature.

Srinivas' rivals in the party, including many from the Telangana region, are throwing their weight behind YSR, who hails from the Rayalaseema region.

Blaming Srinivas for messing up the process of selection of candidates, this group has even launched a campaign to oust him from the post of party president.

Those backing YSR includes Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Sarojini Pulla Reddy, former minister K Keshava Rao and former state president of the party M Satyanarayana Rao, who also made an interesting remark that if the central leadership goes by seniority he would top the list.

Srinivas is also trying to seek the support of the party's alliance partner, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which is fighting for statehood for the region.

TRS has promised to make a separate Telangana a reality in six months. In the event of the Congress depending on TRS' support for the Government formation, the latter might oppose YSR's candidature.

Srinivas says he was not after the post of chief minister as he achieved his goal when he was appointed party president last year. However, he was the first to take objection to central leader Jairam Ramesh's statement that YSR would be chief minister.

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