Cong Faces Tough Choice In Andhra

Hyderabad: | Updated: Nov 17 2003, 05:30am hrs
Andhra Pradesh was once considered one of the bastions of the Congress in the country. It had given the country stalwarts like Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Jalagam Vengal Rao, Marri Channa Reddy, Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy and PV Narasimha Rao, who not only ruled the state but also influenced party politics at the national level. But now the party seems to be gasping for existence in the state, as in the last two decades it has failed to throw up a promising leader.

The Telugu celluloid monarch N T Rama Rao, who founded the Telugu Desam Par-ty in 1982, dislodged the Cong-ress from power. Incidentally, in the same elections, the present chief minister, Chandr-ababu Naidu, a Congress leader then and son-in-law of NTR, had lost his seat to TDP.

In the last Assembly elections, though the Congress got about 39 per cent of the votes polled, it could win just 94 seats. The reason for this, according to political pundits, was infighting at the state, district and village levels.

The main issue here is not group fighting but the fact that Congress has not identified a strong leader who is acceptable to all the groups across the state, they point out. Though the party is seeing some promise in Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who is Mr Naidus contemporary from the Rayalaseema region, he is still not being considered an alternative to Mr Naidu. His 1,500 km padayatra to establish his leadership has not had the desired effect, say political observers.

For the forthcoming elections, the party has decided to join hands with the Left parties and the Telangana Rastra Samiti (TRS), besides minority groups. Though it is yet early to predict the Congress game plan, for now, the party is aiming to consolidate the opposition vote to take on the TDP-BJP combine. This will be no easy task due to the divergent views that these parties hold. The TRS is insisting that the Congress leadership first announce their decision on separate statehood for the Telangana region before any alliance.

Both the Left parties have reservations against joining the Congress alliance. The one-thread that is expected to keep them together would be their desire to dislodge the TDP from power.

In the words of a senior Congress leader: When BJP could establish a new theory bury-the-principles-for-now, why cant we do it But what the Congress is facing with regard to alliances is much more than principles. If it accepts separate statehood for Telangana, the people of the other two regions Rayalaseema and Andhra would not like it. If it does not, it cannot form an alliance with TRS. An unenviable position indeed.