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Where is AP political scenario headed?

Highlights

Where is AP political scenario headed, K Ramachandra Murthy, Kiran Kumar Reddy. With the Congress party committing virtual suicide in Seemandhra region by mishandling the issue of bifurcation, the sitting Congress MPs and MLAs cannot contest on the party ticket.

Will Kiran Kumar Reddy float a political party? Should he launch one? The highly inflamed political media, and the volatile political class, in the State have been debating these questions for months. Three factors are absolutely necessary for a politician to think of a new political party. One, there should be need for a party. Two, there has to be scope for a party. Three, the person who is hoping to launch a party should have power to mobilise support and build a grass roots network.

With the Congress party committing virtual suicide in Seemandhra region by mishandling the issue of bifurcation, the sitting Congress MPs and MLAs cannot contest on the party ticket. They have to switch over to another party. The other parties, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), are overflowing with hopefuls. There is no vacancy in either party. The BJP is not a major force in Seemandhra. Moreover, it is likely to have an electoral tie-up with the TDP. Chandrababu Naidu, chief of the TDP, may not give more than a dozen seats to the BJP. The best way would be to have a new party which can accommodate all the sitting MPs and MLAs. Thus, there is a dire need for a new party.

The scope for a new party to be promoted by a splinter group of the discredited Congress party may not be great. Both the Opposition parties are strong and the fight is going to be mainly between them. The Congress is going to be in the field. If a new party comes into being it would be the third tributary of River Congress. But there are many established leaders who are popular in their constituencies but are sure to lose if they contest on Congress ticket. They are not prepared to join the YSRCP for personal reasons. Unwillingness to work with a leader who is much younger than them and who is not known to be as warm as his father may be one among them. The new party will have trained workers who cross over from the Congress along with the sitting legislators and those who lost in the last elections if they still remained with the party. New entrants also may opt for a new party since the established parties would not entertain them.

What are the chances of the new party winning a majority of seats? Bleak. Some stalwarts may manage to scrape through. In most of the cases the candidates of a new party would be in the fourth position. Nevertheless, the new party would not find it difficult to field candidates in all the constituencies of Seemandhra region. The same may not be the case with Telangana, if the new outfit is serious about contesting in an alien territory. Win or lose, the new party has a scope, though limited, to exist.

Kiran Kumar Reddy whose profile was average till July 30th last year, had used the decision of the Congress Working Committee on that day to grant a separate statehood for Telangana to his advantage, with or without the help of the party high command, to refurbish his image. He utilised his office to get the eyeballs of the people across the State by addressing media persons a number of times and all the news channels showing the conferences live all the time. He came across as a rebel who was questioning the decision of the party high command which made him chief minister. His stand that the unity of the Telugus is more important to him than the post of a chief minister has gone down well with the people. The employees section in the region has reportedly been identified with him. Some members of his Cabinet who hail from Seemandhra having no slot either in the YSRCP or the TDP are supporting him. Even before the decision of President Pranab Mukherjee on the request of the government to give extra time was conveyed to the Speaker, Kiran Reddy started his well prepared, but not so well delivered, speech in the Assembly on Wednesday evening.

The MLAs from Telangana region protested against some of the remarks made by the Chief Minister by going to the podium. Kiran Reddy has apparently collected a lot of details and he has promised to speak at length. He would only be repeating himself since he had said earlier what all there was to say. In fact, no speaker in the Assembly or the Council so far has spoken specifically on the Bill. Everyone was reiterating his stand on the question of bifurcation. MPs like Lagadapati Rajagopal are eager to encourage Kiran Reddy to float a party. The Vijayawada MP is believed to be behind the campaign going on in the name of ‘Samaikyandhra Party’. Many Union Ministers are prepared to sail with Kiran Reddy and contest on new party ticket. They are all willing to accept Kiran Reddy as their leader mainly because he is the politician who would be footing the bill. He is believed to have the wherewithal needed to launch a party and he has become a hero of sorts for the protagonists of united AP.

The popular analysis is that the Congress vote would be divided in three ways and the net beneficiary would be the TDP. If the BJP had a tie-up with the TDP, it would be a strong combination capable of winning a majority of the 175 seats in Seemandhra. But some analysts insist that the vote bank of the YSRCP is unassailable since it contains hardcore supporters from SCs, Muslims and Reddys. They comprise roughly 25 per cent of voters. Like the Kammas of all hues had consolidated behind the TDP this time, the Reddys have been standing by the YSRCP. The TDP-BJP combination did well in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, particularly in Seemandhra region. There was euphoria in the wake of Kargil victory. It is Modi’s wind, if not a wave, now. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will not have a major impact for now. The Lok Satta has no time to explain its latest stand to the people of Seemandhra. It will, therefore, be a fight mainly between the YSRCP and the TDP-BJP combine. The Congress has a faithful vote bank which is not eroded by any political cyclone. There are still some people who blindly vote for the Congress.

Who among the Congress leaders are egging on Kiran Reddy to go for a new political party? Ministers like Pithani Satyanarayana, considered to be very close to the Chief Minister, are exhibiting their enthusiasm. Leaders like Botcha Satyanarayana also are talking about a new party. Botcha appears to be goading the leaders of well-to-do castes to leave the Congress. Once he said about thirty to forty MLAs were preparing to cross over to the TDP and the YSRCP. The PCC president may be toying with the idea of helping the OBCs get more tickets if leaders of other castes left the party. He can do what YS Rajasekhara Reddy did in 1985 as a young PCC president when Rajiv Gandhi was PM. Rajiv knew that the Congress did not stand any chance of winning seats in the face of a massive wave in favour of NTR as a result of ‘Save Democracy’ movement and gave a free hand to YSR who single-handedly prepared a list of his nominees. Similarly, the Congress high command has no hope of making it two digits in Seemandhra in 2014 and Rajiv’s son Rahul Gandhi might ask Botcha to field persons of his choice.

If the State is united till the elections, Kiran’s party would have political relevance. If the AP Reorganisation Bill is passed by parliament and if the general elections are held in two States, a new party will be of no consequence. It lacks theme. In yet another likely scenario, if the Bill is passed and the Assembly elections are postponed by six months in the name of delimitation of Assembly constituencies, a new party will not make any difference. It remains to be seen whether Kiran Reddy would make an announcement regarding a new party at the end of his speech on Thursday or wait till the debate is completed at the end of the extended time. The chances of his not launching a party also cannot be ruled out. It again depends on whether he is acting to script written by someone Delhi.

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