Hyderabad/New Delhi: The Congress, which is already on the defensive on a range of issues, especially graft in public projects, faced fresh trouble after Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y. Rajasekhara Reddy, resigned from the party.
Although Reddy hasn’t announced the launch of a new political party, analysts say he could do so soon.
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The crisis comes just a little over three weeks ahead of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Congress on 18 December.
If other Congress legislators exit too, the state government could be reduced to a minority. At present, it has a majority of eight seats with 156 MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) in the 294-member assembly. As a back-up plan, the Congress has convinced Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), which has 18 members in the assembly, to support the government without being part of it.
Parting ways: Jagan Mohan Reddy (centre) greets supporters at his residence after submitting his resignation. Bharath Sai/Mint
“PRP has decided to extend its support to us from outside and not join the party. In the case of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), its chief had held a meeting with senior Congress MP (member of Parliament) K. Keshava Rao last fortnight in Delhi and assured support to the Congress government with a condition that steps should be initiated towards carving out a separate Telangana state,” Congress spokesperson B. Kamalakar Rao said. TRS has 11 seats in the assembly.
A TRS spokesperson said, “Our party president K. Chandrasekhar Rao had announced in New Delhi on 12 November after meeting senior Congress leader K. Keshava Rao that TRS would support the Congress government if it paves the way for formation of Telangana state.”
A key aide of Reddy and the MP from Amalapuram, Sabbam Hari, warned that “several MPs will be forced to take harsh decisions if PRP is roped into the state government”.
Andhra Pradesh sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha; of the Congress’ 208 MPs in the Lok Sabha, 33 are from Andhra Pradesh. Mint couldn’t immediately ascertain whether or if any of them would follow Reddy.
Greater clarity on Reddy’s position will emerge on Wednesday when he is expected to articulate his plans after paying homage to his father; this may include continuing his controversial state-wide tour Odarpu (consolation) yatra and floating a new party, said another close aide, who did not want to identified.
Meanwhile, in a day of rapid developments, several district-level Congress leaders announced their resignations before retracting them at Reddy’s request.
The Congress went into damage-control mode with Union law minister Veerappa Moily seeking to play down the implications, even as Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, who was sworn in as Andhra Pradesh’s chief minister last Thursday, was poised to expand his cabinet on Wednesday.
The new chief minister also convened an emergency meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, which was attended by at least 60 legislators, who condemned the allegations levelled by the outgoing Reddy against party president Sonia Gandhi.
“The party had gone through bigger crises… There were vertical splits. So it will overcome this too,” said senior Congress member V. Kishore Chandra Deo.
While some party leaders said the exit of the former chief minister’s son should serve as a wake-up call to the party, others said the rebellion would backfire on Reddy.
“The appeasement of Jagan was a wrong line taken by the party. And the general secretaries have misled the party leadership about the situation in the state. The party has to rein in other fence-sitters too,” said a Congress MP, who did not want to be identified. This person added that Reddy would not be able to garner the support of “even five MLAs”.
“This will be very troublesome for Jagan as well because Congress will ensure that his source of funds dries up,” said another party MP, who too wanted to remain anonymous.
Political analyst C. Narasimha Rao said that Jagan may not announce his new party immediately and wait till the bye-elections for Pulivendula assembly and Kadapa Parliament constituencies are completed. “In the meantime, Jagan, a free man now, may continue his state tour and further consolidate his support base.”
The Congress is battling a parliamentary and political crisis arising from allegations of corruption over the terms of entry of new telecom companies (in 2008).
Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar has now has convened a meeting of leaders of all parties on Tuesday to enable Parliament to resume—it has not functioned since 9 November when the winter session began.