History is being re-enacted, judging by the trips being made to Delhi by the Chief Minister on the one hand and, on the other, by dissidents like Botcha, Damodar Rajanarasimha and Jana Reddy who are sore with his unilateral functioning
Rarely in the recent political history of Andhra Pradesh has any Cabinet been so divided as Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy’s and a ruling party so adrift and disunited in an election year as the Congress is now.
Two parallels of such discord immediately come to mind while viewing the present muddle in the long term perspective. The mercurial N.T. Rama Rao dismissed his entire Cabinet, fuming over leakage of the State’s annual budget, and left for Assam. Earlier, during M. Channa Reddy’s first stint as Chief Minister in 1978, rampant dissidence against his autocratic style of functioning was the order of the day.
The week just gone by had all the ingredients of these political potboilers. One Minister, D. L. Ravindra Reddy, was sacked without ceremony while holidaying with family in the salubrious summer climes of London, the resignations of two others, Sabitha Indra Reddy and Dharmana Prasada Rao were accepted, two MPs defected to the TRS and 15 MLAs stood disqualified from the Assembly.
In Chenna Reddy’s rule, dissident and loyalist Ministers flew back and forth from the capital, either to complain to Indira Gandhi in Delhi and return to Hyderabad keep their flock together. Chenna Reddy never yielded to the rebels and ended up losing his position.
History is being re-enacted, judging by the trips being made to Delhi by the Chief Minister on the one hand and, on the other, by dissidents like PCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana, Deputy Chief Minister C. Damodar Rajanarasimha and Minister K. Jana Reddy who are sore with his unilateral functioning. The jury is still out whether Mr. Kiran Reddy has mellowed down and changed his style and become inclusive in decision-making.
Observers did not lose the significance of the Chief Minister backing down at the last Cabinet meeting when everyone believed that the knives were out for the inevitable showdown. What could the dissidents do when Mr. Reddy showed no stomach for a fight and buckled by offering to constitute a Cabinet sub-committees to study “Bangaru Thalli”, the girl child protection scheme which he announced without a modicum of democratic propriety.
Surprisingly though, the dismissal of Ravindra Reddy was not brought up, in spite of much CM-bashing by the dissident leaders in New Delhi. Evidently, they had no ground to stand on.
Cabinet is all about collective responsibility and Mr. Ravindra Reddy could criticise its decisions, particularly the one expressing solidarity with Dharmana Prasada Rao, at his own peril. Expectedly, he paid the price and it appeared a bit naïve for senior Ministers to protest against the ‘unceremonious’ dismissal, as if it should have accompanied by song and dance. All this is just politicking and, worse still, nitpicking, considering that the ruling party will face its biggest challenge yet – the general elections in less than 12 months. The question that is asked of every political pundit is his/her forecast of the election result.
Given the fluidity of politics, even angels will fear to tread this territory, unless the upcoming elections to local bodies reveal some broad trends. The ruling party lies in disarray, the main Opposition, the TDP, keeps losing its flock to the YSR Congress and N. Chandrababu Naidu finds himself locking horns with the Nandamuri clan. The YSR Congress remains rudderless as there seem no prospect of Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy getting bail while the TRS’ sphere of influence is confined at best only to 119 seats in Telangana. It will require a Nostradamus to forecast what lies ahead.
Amid this rather complex scenario, the trump card lies with the Congress party in New Delhi. It has to make up either with the YSR Congress or the TRS to put up a credible fight in the elections. Notwithstanding YSR Congress’ allegations of match-fixing with the Telugu Desam, the Congress will be committing political hara-kiri by having any kind of understanding with the main Opposition.
As for an understanding with the TRS, AICC leaders like S. K. Shinde, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Chacko have left no room for such a possibility. Their broad hints that the Centre is in no mood to concede Telangana in the immediate future makes it difficult to reach out to it.
That leaves only the YSR Congress and who knows – in politics there are no permanent friends or permanent interests. It is winnability in 2014 that will matter.