New Delhi: Jagan Mohan Reddy served a fresh reminder to the Congress party leadership that their political hold in Andhra Pradesh may be on the wane after rallying 24 legislators, mostly from the ruling Congress, at his day-long fast in the Capital on Tuesday.
He was protesting the “injustice” meted out to Andhra Pradesh in the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal award.
The state which elects 42 members of Parliament has been crucial in enabling the Congress to lead two coalitions to victory in the last two general elections. The Congress, however, dismissed any political threats posed by Reddy to the party.
Given the arithmetic in the state assembly the Congress may be hard-pressed to take disciplinary action against the legislators as it could leave the party vulnerable in terms of its legislative strength.
The former member of Parliament from Kadapa and son of the late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who had resigned from the party in November last year, has been seeking to rally support for himself at a time when the Congress party has been struggling to deal with divisive forces seeking a separate state of Telangana on the one hand, and fighting political rivals on charges of mismanaging on inflation and failing to fight corruption on the other.
In a taunt to the Congress leadership, Reddy said, “I’m doing the Congress a favour by not asking my people to resign. If I wanted to, I could’ve done that a long time back. The government would’ve fallen. But my people are very clear that in 2014, they will contest not on a Congress ticket but on my party’s ticket.”
K. Nageshwar, an associate professor in Osmania University and an independent member of legislative council says, “Congress government is on (a) ventilator and it’s just a matter of time before it dies, if you go by the arithmetics of the state assembly. Whereas Jagan Mohan Reddy is in a win-win situation. He does not have anything to lose, but if Congress takes disciplinary action against the legislators who are supporting him, it will be on a sticky wicket in the House and if it does not, it affects the party’s credibility.”
The Congress has 157 legislators—including 50 from Telangana, who have been criticizing the Union government’s delay in bifurcating the state—in the 294-member assembly and its ally Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen while its friendly party Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) has 18.
Of the 24 legislators, who attended Reddy’s hunger strike on Tuesday, 22 are from the Congress, including two from the Upper House, one each from PRP and main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
While Congress leaders pointed out that Reddy’s move could weaken in Andhra region which in turn might delay the process of bifurcation further, leaders from Telangana countered it. “Congress will not achieve anything by delaying the process. Instead it will invite the blame that the party has not delivered on its promise,” Madhu Goud Yaskhi, a Congress Lok Sabha member from Nizamabad said.
Meanwhile, supporters said that Reddy would get more supporters as the state goes for next elections in 2014. “There are so many people within (the) Congress party who are supporting Jagan, but are not coming out because they want development in their constituency, the elections are in 2014, so they are thinking to come with him when the elections come near. Then they will automatically come with him,” said Konda Surekha, MLA, Parkal, (Warangal).
However, Congress denied that Reddy’s attempts to strengthen his yet-to-be formed new party would be a threat to the party or the party-government in Andhra Pradesh.
“The government in Andhra Pradesh was never under any kind of threat, it is not and it will not be. Any illusion of this sort also will get demystified,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Anuja contributed to this story.