Congress president Sonia Gandhi has succeeded in persuading Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) chief Chiranjeevi to support her party in the coming Rajya Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh. The two leaders arrived at an understanding at Ms. Gandhi's 10 Janpath residence here on Saturday evening. Her political secretary Ahmed Patel, Union Minister for Law and party in-charge of Andhra Pradesh Veerappa Moily and PRP leader C. Ramchandraiah were also present.

At the 15-minute- meeting the PRP leader agreed to withdraw his party's candidate. This will ensure that the Congress wins a clear four seats, for which it requires a total of 164 votes, but was short by six. With the PRP, which has 18 MLAs, agreeing to back the Congress' fourth candidate, the Congress need not look elsewhere for support.

“We had been planning to contest for the Rajya Sabha,” Mr. Ramchandraiah told TheHindu, adding, “we were seeking support from other parties when we received an invitation from Sonia Gandhi. She explained her compulsions and requested us to support her party. We have agreed.”

The PRP leader said there was no question of any “reciprocity” at this stage as this was “not a commercial transaction.”

He, however, added that his party had requested Ms. Gandhi to declare the Polavaram and Pranahita-Chevella irrigation schemes “national projects,” so that the Union government would allocate funds for them from the budget.

Earlier, ruling out the merger of his party with the Congress, to a question on whether his party would ally with the Congress in the local body elections, said: “Politics is a dynamic process. Let us see whether the situation warrants it and what our political compulsions are.” He laid stress on the fact that both the Congress and the PRP were “secular parties.”

For the Congress, party sources said, this understanding not only helps it in the immediate future — in the Rajya Sabha elections — but will act as long-term insurance, coming as it does against the backdrop of the revolt by party MP Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. Mr. Reddy, Congress sources said, has the support of approximately 18 MLAs. If they were to leave the Congress, the Rosaiah government could lose its majority, making it dependent on the MIM's seven MLAs. Support from the PRP's 18 MLAs puts the Congress into a comfort zone.