Andhra gamble

The resignation of Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah and his replacement by state assembly Speaker N Kiran Kumar Reddy by the Congress high command was a fire-fighting operation to contain the damage caused by months of political drift and to deal with an uncertain situation that may arise after the Srikrishna commission submits its report on Telangana next month. It is clear that it was well-planned as the entire operation was executed in a single day. Rosaiah, who became chief minister after the death of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, was known to be holding office only temporarily and he lacked the political skills required of the office. He was himself a reluctant chief minister. His administrative experience did not help and the advanced age was a handicap.  The surprise is that he was allowed to continue for so long.

Apart from administrative drift, Rosaiah’s main failure was his inability to counter the campaign of Rajasekara Reddy’s ambitious son, Jaganmohan Reddy, supported by the network of interests created by the former chief minister. A good part of the state cabinet and the legislature party is still loyal to the YSR legacy and supports Jagan’s claim to chief ministership. He made good use of his resources and support among  the Reddy community, which is the major base of the Congress, to mount a mass contact programme, while still being a party MP. The open criticism of the leadership of Sonia Gandhi was the ultimate shot. The choice of K K Reddy is based on the hope that he would be able to counter Jagan’s campaign and retain the support of the community for the party.

The new chief minister has a difficult task at hand as Jaganmohan Reddy is not expected to slow down his campaign. Rosaiah had found it difficult even to run the government because of non-cooperation of his own ministers and the bureaucracy. The Congress will also be in an unenviable situation whatever be the recommendation of the  Srikrishna Commission. The situation is its own making but now there is no escape from it. Kiran Kumar Reddy is known as a strong politician with some mass support and good links with many supporters of YSR. He may even have to face the prospect of Jagan breaking away from the party. The Congress has made a gamble, perhaps the best under the circumstances though late, in a state where its stakes are high.

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