AP on the cusp of political rebirth

AP on the cusp of political rebirth

Andhra Pradesh is on the cusp of a major political transformation with the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passing a bill to carve out a separate Telangana state. It marked the end of a prolonged period of turmoil marked by agitations for and against the division of the state.

The rebellious Congress Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who has revolted against the party’s decision on creation of Telangana state, is all set to resign on Wednesday and float a new party soon to fight for the interests of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions, jointly referred to as Seemandhra.

Telangana, a predominantly backward region spread over ten districts, will now be the 29th state of India. Hyderabad will be the common capital of Telangana and residuary Andhra Pradesh comprising 13 districts, for a period of ten years before becoming the permanent capital of Telangana.

The political dynamics are set for major changes ahead of the simultaneous elections to the Assembly and Lok Sabha in April/May this year. New political alignments, desertions and migrations on a large scale are expected, particularly affecting the Congress.

By carving out Telangana state, the ruling party hopes to sweep the Lok Sabha elections in Telangana, which accounts for 17 out of the total 42 seats in AP. By forging an alliance with Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a dominant player in the region, it hopes to win elections in the new state. In the 294-member AP Assembly, Telangana accounts for 119 seats.

The Congress had bagged 33 LS seats in the 2009 elections, the highest contribution by any state to the UPA kitty. After ten years of governance,   the party is grappling with a strong anti-incumbency factor and desertions from its ranks. By creating Telangana state, the Congress hopes to neutralise two of its main rivals - TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, whose ambivalence on Telangana issue led to erosion of his party’s support base in the region, and Y S Rajashekar Reddy’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy whose fledgling YSR Congress Party is seen as a formidable force in Seemandhra.

Despite the vertical split in the party over dividing the state and the prospect of an electoral rout in Seemandhra, the Congress has decided to play the Telangana card since the BJP, its main rival at the national level, had already promised to grant statehood in the event of NDA coming to power in the next elections. The Congress is keen on taking the credit for fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Telangana region and reaping electoral dividends.

For the TDP, which has been waiting in the wings to capture power, the bifurcation could prove detrimental to its interests. The YSRCP, on the other hand, is expected to capitalise on the public anger in its stronghold, Seemandhra, in the next polls.
The creation of Telangana state will be a major victory for TRS which has been in the forefront of the statehood movement since 2001. However, it now faces a dilemma over the issue of merging with the Congress.

TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao had earlier promised to merge his outfit with the ruling party if statehood was granted for the region. However, he is now under pressure from the party leaders to opt for electoral tie-up with Congress instead of merger.

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