Star acquisition

The Congress party in Andhra Pradesh has insured itself against any destabilising impact of the revolt by former chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s son Jaganmohan Reddy with the merger of superstar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with itself.

Ever since Jaganmohan Reddy’s rebellion started and after the Congress realised that he could not be pacified, the party had begun looking out for outside support. The PRP was amenable to the overtures and it was clear that the two parties were coming together.

There was much public bonhomie and they were seen working together in the state Assembly too. The Congress finally decided to go for the merger and acquisition route to strengthen itself, as the organic depletion caused by the Jagan party was becoming a matter of concern in a state where its stakes are very high.

The deal has worked out well for the PRP also which has failed to make any serious impact in over two years of existence. It won 18 seats in the last elections but fell far short of expectations of becoming a major political force. The Congress has now increased its strength in the assembly from 155 to 173.

It needs the support of 148 MLAs in the House to stay in power and with over 20 MLAs supposed to be backing Jaganmohan Reddy, the Kiran Kumar Reddy government was not very safe. With no immediate threat to the government, the party can now even hope to wean back some of Jagan’s supporters to its side. Though the PRP merger is claimed to be unconditional, there is no doubt that there are unpublicised terms and offers by way of ministerial berths and other positions. But the Congress could not grudge them to stave off the danger it was facing.

Chiranjeevi’s presence in the party might also be useful to the Congress as he is from the numerically strong Kapu community. The Congress base among the powerful Reddy community was being eroded by Jaganmohan Reddy’s campaign.

The superstar is also a crowd-puller and can be an asset to the party which cannot claim any popular leader after the death of YSR. Chiranjeevi has lost some following in the Telangana region after he came out as a staunch supporter of a united Andhra but he still commands wide support  which can help the Congress. The challenge for the party is to make the merger real and intact in the months to come.

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