Several Ministers and senior leaders were absent from a crucial preparatory meeting convened here on Wednesday by the Pradesh Congress Committee president Botcha Satyanarayana to discuss arrangements for the party’s regional convention at Vijayawada on January 7.

The Ministers who kept away were Kanna Lakshminarayana and Dokka Manikya Varaprasad, Government Whip Perini Venkataramaiah, MPs K.S.Rao (Eluru), Rayapati Sambasiva Rao (Guntur) and Lagadapati Rajagopal (Vijayawada) and Kanumuri Bapiraju (Narsapur) and at least 10 MLAs from Krishna, Guntur and West Godavari districts.

Party leaders were surprised at such absenteeism at a significant meeting coming after the largely successful State-level convention here last month. Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, Union Minister Panabaka Lakshmi and six other Ministers, Rajya Sabha MP K. V. P. Ramachandra Rao and some MPs, MLAs and MLCs were present.

Skips meeting

Those who skipped the meeting appear to have their own reasons. Mr. Kavuri Sambasiva Rao is completely cut up with the central leadership for not being inducted into the Union Cabinet. He had avoided the two meetings held previously -- the Congress Coordination Committee meeting and also the State-level convention -- protesting the raw deal meted out to him. It is also not sure whether he will take part in the Vijayawada convention.

Mr. Rayapati Sambasiva Rao is also sulking as the party’s central leadership had ignored him for the post of chairman of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Instead Mr. Bapiraju, another MP was given a second term.

Addressing the media later, party leader Md. Ali Shabbir said the meeting would enable the grassroots level cadre and leaders to air their views freely in front of the AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad.

At least 300 delegates from each constituency would attend the meeting. There are 40 Assembly segments in these three districts.

The PCC chief tried to play down the absence of the leaders.