Congress’ death wish in Andhra Pradesh

By: Kingshuk Nag

The Congress party wants to return to power in 2014 and for that it needs to do well in Andhra Pradesh. But that’s the problem: the state has gone out of the hands of the Congress. Well, the state is still under Congress rule and Kiran Kumar Reddy is trying his best: by hopping from one place to another, spending time with villagers handing over various sops to retrieve the lost Congress. But his efforts are not good enough. Anybody who knows anything about the state of Andhra Pradesh knows that the Congress party has lost this ‘Indiramma rajyam’.

In Andhra region, the writ of Jagan runs –even though he may be languishing in Hyderabad’s Chanchalguda jail. And inTelangana, nobody’s writ may be running but Congress is on the fast track to disintegration. Though the denizens of Telangana may not be voluble about their demand for a separate state, the sentiment runs deep. In fact it is so deep that even Jagan cannot surmount the T factor and even the fifteen ministers from the region (including the deputy chief minister) are charged enough to write to Sonia with their demands.

With the Congress being seen dilly dallying on the separate statehood demand (after announcing it officially on December 9, 2009), the party will be decimated in the next election in the region if Telangana state is not created by then.

But under pressure from the Andhra lobby –especially the industrialists hailing from there double timing as politicians – the Congress party is unable to go ahead with announcement of T state. So in return they have (the latest statement is from the home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde) raised the ruse of Telangana becoming a Maoist dominated state if it is created. Other arguments – of course not expressed explicitly- include that it will fall under ISI control. Reason: Muslims will be a higher proportion of T’s population than it is in Andhra Pradesh. “How absurd can you be? Even the Vishwa Hindu Parishad will not come up with these arguments,” says a Muslim Congressman.

Sensing the Congress dilemma, the other contender for power in the 2014 elections – the BJP has already begun to go for the kill. The three day fast organized in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar by the state BJP unit and other protests in the Capital city recently is an example of this.

What is more, changes are happening below the surface. Anyone familiar with the politics is aware of the caste basis of AP politics. The Congress party’s predominant position till now is based on the long standing support from the Reddy community. But now the Reddys have begun to desert the party. In the Andhra region (includes Andhra and Rayalaseema), they have shifted their loyalty lock, stock and barrel to Jagan’s YSR Congress. Evidence of this came in the recent by-polls to the assembly that was swept by YSR Congress. In Telangana region, they are now slowly drifting to the BJP. The BJP which barely has any presence inAP and support of no major castes will work actively to ramp support from the Reddys of T, to build a credible party organization in T region.

Over smart Congress managers in Delhi – many of whom are rootless wonders – argue that there is no problem for the party in Andhra Pradesh. “We will do a deal with Jagan and his MPs will support us to form a government in Delhi in 2014. After all he is a Christian he won’t be able to support a Hindutva formation to form a government,” a senior Congress neta told me.

But it cannot be as simple as that. Jagan will extract his pound of flesh before agreeing to support the Congress in 2014. Obviously this ‘support’ can be sort only after the results of the election are announced. Jagan will never agree to a pre- election deal because that will make his liable to the danger of being dubbed as Congress agent by TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu. “Both Jagan and Naidu will be seeking the anti -incumbency votes in 2014. Logic dictates that Jagan cannot be seen as even having an informal agreement with the Congress,” a political analyst said. Morever Jagan would like to be part of a third front which might also be a suitor for the gaddi in New Delhi.Thus it cannot be taken for granted that he will support a Congress formation at the Centre in 2014.

‘There’s nothing to worry’ Congress manager from Delhi says that the party will manage to do well in Telangana by doing a deal with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). “You know KCR is even ready to merge his party with the Congress,” he says. KCR is mum and is not saying whether this is true or not. But the problem is that KCR may agree to merge his party into Congress provided that he is made the boss of the Congress in Telangana and if only Telangana state is created. (He might play ball if an announcement is made and concrete steps are taken to make the state a reality). “This is precisely the point on which the Congress high command is unable to decide with pushes and pulls from both sides,” political analysts point out.

In the absence of a decision, the Congress managers are proposing a separate T council with a chairman (who will obviously be a Congressman) and huge resources to develop the region. Also the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh will be a T-man. This, aver the managers will be enough to solve the T imbroglio. But this is a case of too little too late. With no evidence on the ground as yet on the T matter, the Congress seems to be consumed with a death wish in Andhra Pradesh. [Times of India]

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