Even as Congress tries to rush through the di­vi­sion of Andhra Pradesh, the party is faced with in­ter­nal re­sis­tance in the form of its own chief min­is­ter

India Today - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Amar­nath K. Menon

Even as his state grinds to a halt, Andhra Pradesh Chief Min­is­ter N. Ki­ran Ku­mar Reddy can only bor­row an anal­ogy from his favourite game of cricket to ar­gue that the match is not over till the last ball is bowled. He is ea­ger to be the stan­dard- bearer of a united Andhra Pradesh rather than be re­mem­bered as the man who presided over the bi­fur­ca­tion of the coun­try’s first lin­guis­tic state. But he has com­pe­ti­tion. Andhra Pradesh Congress Com­mit­tee ( APCC) Pres­i­dent Botsa Satya­narayana is one from within the party; two doughty po­lit­i­cal ri­vals— YSR Congress Pres­i­dent Y. S. Ja­gan Mo­han Reddy and Tel­ugu De­sam Party ( TDP) chief N. Chan­drababu Naidu— have launched their hunger games against the di­vi­sion.

Ja­gan was first off the block. He be­gan the fast on a makeshift dais just out­side his Lo­tus Pond party of­fice in Hy­der­abad on Oc­to­ber 5. Party ac­tivists and sup­port­ers gath­ered for a glimpse of a fast­ing leader who used the op­por­tu­nity to grant ‘ ex­clu­sive’ me­dia in­ter­views. But by the end of the fifth day, as su­gar lev­els dropped, a re­luc­tant Ja­gan was moved to hos­pi­tal. Not to be left be­hind in the strug­gle for a united Andhra, Naidu be­gan fast­ing on the lawn of the state- owned Andhra Pradesh Bha­van in Delhi on Oc­to­ber 7.

Satya­narayana wants Ki­ran Reddy’s job. He is play­ing the OBC card as a coun­ter­point to the dom­i­nance of the Red­dys in the state. For his part, Ki­ran Reddy is keep­ing a di­a­logue open with strik­ing gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees and lead­ers of those man­ning the power util­i­ties. Even as he ap­peals to them to re­turn to work, he does not threaten them with in­vok­ing the law against those dis­rupt­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices. Schools and col­leges are hav­ing a longer than nor­mal Dussehra break but a dark one as there are black­outs in the See­mandhra re­gion. Power cuts have crip­pled emer­gency ser­vices in hos­pi­tals and dis­rupted bank­ing as the ATMS are also shut for want of power.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers hope that peo­ple of the 13 dis­tricts, col­lec­tively called See­mandhra— who are op­posed to the Oc­to­ber 3 de­ci­sion to carve Te­lan­gana with 10 dis­tricts as In­dia’s 29th state— will vote for them. Their con­cerns are clear: They be­lieve if Te­lan­gana be­comes a re­al­ity, they will lose vote share to the Congress- Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi ( TRS) com­bine in Te­lan­gana and have to com­pete against each other in the See­mandhra re­gion in the 2014 Gen­eral Elec­tions. “This is a ploy to try and make Rahul Gandhi the next prime min­is­ter of In­dia,” says Ja­gan, as he asks, “How can the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment do it with­out a res­o­lu­tion in favour of di­vi­sion be­ing adopted by the Andhra Pradesh Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly?” Naidu uses a more emo­tional ar­gu­ment. “The Congress is play­ing dirty pol­i­tics with the Tel­u­gus for the sake of gain­ing power,” he says.

The rul­ing Congress is on a weak wicket in See­mandhra. The prospect of a ter­ri­to­rial par­ti­tion has left many in the party in a tizzy. In the face of snow­balling protests, Ki­ran Reddy ad­mits the of­fice of chief min­is­ter is not per­ma­nent and he will op­pose any res­o­lu­tion to carve out Te­lan­gana. “I will not give up now. I wish the is­sue is de­bated in the As­sem­bly first so that peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives can de­cide whether a united Andhra Pradesh will ben­e­fit them or whether the di­vi­sion of the state is good for them. Only then can I take a call,” says the Chief Min­is­ter. He has made it clear that the Congress will get a drub­bing in See­mandhra and is ask­ing for in­ter­ven­tion of the kind that Rahul Gandhi made against the or­di­nance pro­tect­ing con­victed politi­cians.

In­ter­nal bick­er­ing is wors­en­ing with Congress MPs from Te­lan­gana ac­cus­ing Ki­ran Reddy of be­ing in ca­hoots with Naidu, point­ing to the TDP chief be­ing al­lowed to sit on in­def­i­nite fast at the Andhra Pradesh Bha­van in Delhi. “The com­man­der is the con­spir­a­tor,” de­clares Deputy Chief Min­is­ter Damodar Raja Narasimha, who is from Te­lan­gana, al­lud­ing to Ki­ran Reddy as the force

be­hind the wide­spread protests in See­mandhra. TRS MLA K. T. Rama Rao says Ki­ran Reddy would rather back the See­mandhra ag­i­ta­tion than go down in his­tory as the last chief min­is­ter of Andhra Pradesh. P. Go­vard­han Reddy, a Congress Ra­jya Sabha MP from Te­lan­gana, says “the Chief Min­is­ter should be sacked and ar­rested un­der the Pre­ven­tive De­ten­tion Act as he is be­hind the ag­i­ta­tion”.

The APCC chief’s plight is worse. Satya­narayana’s prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing the Satya Engineering Col­lege, the of­fice of the Satya Cable Net­work and the Janapriya bar and restau­rant, in which he al­legedly has a stake, were ran­sacked in the oth­er­wise quiet town of Viziana­garam, forc­ing the po­lice to im­pose cur­few and post 300 per­son­nel to guard and pro­tect his home. “The Congress has lost peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in See­mandhra. The Cen­tre should re­spect the as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple be­fore pro­ceed­ing fur­ther,” he says.

Satya­narayana may have been sin­gled out for a vi­cious at­tack be­cause of his dou­ble­s­peak on di­vi­sion. On July 12, he had said that there was noth­ing wrong in hav­ing two states with Tel­ugu peo­ple. But on Oc­to­ber 8, he changed his stance and said he was all for a united Andhra Pradesh. Oth­ers are not be­ing spared too. Pro­test­ers against bi­fur­ca­tion lay siege day af­ter day at the homes and prop­er­ties of the Congress min­is­ters and other elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives across See­mandhra de­mand­ing that they pres­sure the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment to re­nege on its plans. Four Cen­tral min­is­ters, who met Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh to stall bi­fur­ca­tion and an­nounced that they have re­signed, have stopped at­tend­ing to of­fi­cial work from Oc­to­ber 8.

Un­able to cope with the grow­ing in­ter­nal strife, the jit­tery Congress is try­ing to take cover by re­leas­ing let­ters in sup­port of Te­lan­gana given ear­lier by the TDP and the YSR Congress. “Both had given sup­port to Te­lan­gana in writ­ing. Amaz­ing po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism,” tweeted Congress Gen­eral Sec­re­tary in charge of Andhra Pradesh, Digvi­jaya Singh.

In a fire­fight­ing mea­sure, less than 72 hours af­ter the UPA gov­ern­ment con­sti­tuted the Group of Min­is­ters ( GOM) on Te­lan­gana, it has re­cast the GOM whit­tling down its strength from 10 to six. While re­tain­ing Home Min­is­ter Sushilku­mar Shinde and Fi­nance Min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram, the new en­trants are De­fence Min­is­ter A. K. Antony, who will now head the GOM, Health Min­is­ter Ghu­lam Nabi Azad, Petroleum and Nat­u­ral Gas Min­is­ter M. Veer­appa Moily and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jairam Ramesh, with Min­is­ter of State in the PMO V. Narayanasamy as spe­cial in­vi­tee.

Now, with Antony re­cu­per­at­ing at the Army Re­search and Re­fer­ral Hos­pi­tal, Delhi, af­ter a surgery, and Chi­dambaram plan­ning a trip to the US, it is un­cer­tain whether the GOM can present its re­port as sug­gested within six weeks. Congress is toy­ing with the idea of im­pos­ing Pres­i­dent’s rule if the re­bel­lious Ki­ran Reddy does not come around, iso­late the other op­po­nents within the party and present the Te­lan­gana leg­is­la­tion in the win­ter ses­sion of Par­lia­ment in Novem­ber. It as­sumes Te­lan­gana is a done deal. It may not be so.

Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter @ Amar­nathK­Menon





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