Claiming that the 46-day-long agitation in Andhra-Rayalaseema for a united Andhra Pradesh has forced the Centre to do a rethink on the bifurcation decision, Union Ministers and Congress MPs from the two regions on Saturday remained evasive on the demand for their resignations.

They, however, maintained that people were more important than the (Congress) party and they would act according to the people’s wishes.

The Union Ministers and MPs from Seemandhra, who held a two-and-half hour meeting here, said they would meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi soon and apprise her of the growing demand for retaining unity of the state.

They would also request the AICC-appointed four-member committee, led by Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, to visit the state for an on-the-spot assessment.

“For 46 days now, people from all walks of life, including children, have been peacefully agitating demanding that Andhra Pradesh be kept united. It’s by far the largest such agitation in the world, voluntarily led by the people without interference by any political party or leader. The agitation has forced a rethink on the Centre,” Union Textiles Minister Kavuri Sambasiva Rao told reporters.

He said that the Centre hastily came out with a statement on December 9, 2009, on dividing the state only due to fear that Telangana Rashtra Samiti president K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who was on hunger strike, might die.

“But that proved to be a drama and we established that people were strongly in favour of a unified state.

Accordingly, the Centre issued another statement on December 23, 2009, keeping the state division process on hold,” he said.

“Many political parties did not like the Srikrishna Committee report (which came subsequently) suggesting that the state be kept united,” the Union Minister said.

On July 30 this year, the Congress Central Working Committee gave the go ahead for the bifurcation proposal. “Now, after seeing the people’s agitation in Andhra-Rayalaseema, the Centre has slowed down the process,” Union Minister of State for Tourism K. Chiranjeevi claimed.

Asked about the Seemandhra people’s demand that legislators from the region should resign to put more pressure on the Congress high command, the Union Ministers and MPs present shot back, saying: “It’s not the people’s demand. It’s the media’s demand.” They, however, hastened to add that they would certainly honour the people’s wishes when required.

Besides Kavuri and Chiranjeevi, Union Ministers M.M. Pallam Raju, Daggubati Purandeswari, J.D. Seelam, Kotla Suryaprakash Reddy, MPs Lagadapati Rajagopal, Magunta Srinivasula Reddy, Ananta Venkatarami Reddy, Undavalli Arun Kumar, K V P Ramachandra Rao, Botsa Jhansi, S.P.Y. Reddy, Kanumuri Bapiraju, and state minister S. Sailajanath attended the meeting.

Union Ministers Kishore Chandra Deo, Panabaka Lakshmi and Killi Kruparani; MPs Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, G. Harsha Kumar and Chinta Mohan did not attend.