Jagan Reddy resistance widens divide over Andhra break-up

Jagan Reddy resistance widens divide over Andhra break-up

New Delhi/Hyderabad: Cracks in the Congress party’s Andhra Pradesh unit widened on Tuesday as the son of late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy aligned with the state’s main opposition party and openly challenged the Centre’s decision to create a separate Telangana out of the southern state.

Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, a Congress party member of Parliament (MP) from Kadapah in Andhra Pradesh, joined Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lawmakers in the Lok Sabha who raised slogans and waved banners in the lower House denouncing the Telangana proposal.

Minutes later, a group of Congress MPs belonging to the Telangana region met defence minister A.K. Antony, chairman of the Congress disciplinary committee, seeking action against Jagan Reddy.

Jagan Reddy’s open rebellion against the central leadership has deepened the crisis in the Congress triggered by the Centre’s endorsement on 9 December of demands for the creation of Telangana. His supporters had campaigned for Jagan Reddy to be made chief minister after his father was killed in a helicopter crash.

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs met late on Tuesday to find ways to break the stalemate in Andhra Pradesh, where all political parties have been divided over the demand for Telangana that’s opposed by the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.

The immediate outcome of the meeting was an appeal to “people and all political parties in Andhra Pradesh to maintain peace and harmony".

The MPs from Telangana described the attitude of Jagan Reddy and Lagadapati Rajagopal, an MP from Vijayawada who has also opposed the proposed bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and been on a “fast unto death" since Monday to protest the Centre’s decision, as a display of defiance against the Congress leadership.

“We have asked the party high command to immediately take serious note of the acts of party MPs Jagan and Rajagopal and take action against them," said Sarve Satyanarayana, a senior Congress MP who belongs to the Telangana region. “Otherwise, indiscipline will grow beyond control in the party."

An unfazed Jagan Reddy, who had picked up a placard demanding a “united Andhra Pradesh" from TDP MPs as he joined them in protesting against the bifurcation of the state, justified his action.

“I was standing there to exhibit that TDP was not the champion, (TDP chief) Chandrababu Naidu is the culprit," Jagan Reddy said. “He is the one who supported a resolution (in favour of Telangana) and changed track."

This is the first time that Jagan Reddy has openly opposed the creation of a Telangana state. Later, he, along with Congress MPs from Rayalaseema, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and briefed her on the latest developments in the state.

“Sonia Gandhi has advised the Congress MPs from (the) Rayalaseema region to maintain restraint and assured them that all the issues would be sorted out shortly," said a senior Congress MP who did not want to be named.

Members from Telangana region have alleged that Jagan Reddy, whose supporters had been disappointed with the Congress leadership’s refusal to appoint him the next chief minister, has been using the issue of Telangana as a “cover up" for his defiance against the party leadership.

“He (Jagan Reddy) is not happy with the party high command for not making him the chief minister after YSR’s death," alleged Madhu Goud Yaskhi, Nizamabad MP.

But Jagan Reddy said he favoured a united Andhra Pradesh. “I do not want to lose any of my Telangana sisters or my brothers—we are going to be together for a united family," he told reporters outside Parliament House.

Meanwhile, the younger brother of the late chief minister, Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, a Congress member of the Andhra Pradesh legislative council, was arrested in Hyderabad on Tuesday when he staged protests against the state’s proposed bifurcation.

TDP lawmakers from costal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions met the assembly speaker and asked him to immediately accept their resignations. They also met chief minister K. Rosaiah to oppose any bifurcation of the state.

Also, a team of Congress and Praja Rajyam Party legislators met the state governor and handed him a statement opposing the proposed division of Andhra Pradesh and urging the Centre to retract its decision to create Telangana.