Does not want to act against the 24 MLAs who accompanied Jaganmohan to Delhi
Publicly, the Congress tried to play down the former MP, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy's show of strength here on Tuesday, saying it posed no threat to the party government in Andhra Pradesh at all. “There has been no threat to the Congress in the past, nor is there any in the present, nor will there be in the future,” party spokesman Manish Tiwari said.
But, privately, the leadership expressed concern at Mr. Reddy taking his battle — accompanied by 24 party MLAs, two MPs and three MLCs — with the Congress into the national capital. Especially as this is one of the party's two major problems in Andhra Pradesh, the other being the ongoing Telangana agitation, in which many Congress MPs are involved.
The leadership has, therefore, instructed its members, Congress sources said, “not to issue statements one way or the other,” even as an informal panel of top leaders has been asked to try and talk to the various players in the State to see if the damage caused by Mr. Reddy to the party and the Telangana agitation can be minimised.
The “informal” panel, according to the sources, consists not just of Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, who is also the general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh, but also Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Mr Azad, who held charge of Andhra Pradesh in the past, is increasingly being fielded as a troubleshooter.
The party sources stressed that the leadership, as of now, did not want to take action against the 24 MLAs who have accompanied Mr. Reddy to Delhi. For, expulsion would not just suit them, it would reduce the Kiran Kumar Reddy government to a minority, sending it scrambling for support from the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen and the Praja Rajyam Party.
But, clearly, there is some “softening” towards Jagan. Asked whether a patch-up was possible at this stage, a party functionary said, “A patch-up with Jagan is possible only if he gets off his high horse.”
Jagan, who has been on a collision course with the Congress leadership ever since it rejected his claim to the chief ministerial chair after his father, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, died in a helicopter crash on September 2, 2009, applied to the Election Commission last week to register his new political party.
Meanwhile, the leadership — of both the Congress and the government — has been in touch with Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy and Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, who were in the capital recently. While the party is depending on the new Chief Minister to bring things under control, it also feels that the Governor, who was formerly Director, Intelligence Bureau, will be useful in dealing with the Telangana agitation. The Union government is clearly in no hurry to make a pronouncement on that, and the Srikrishna Committee's preference for a united Andhra Pradesh with a Telangana Regional Council remains the favoured option in Delhi.
Interestingly, while the party leadership's line currently is to “go slow” on the twin problems in Andhra Pradesh, there is another view among senior leaders in the State. This view is that the problems need to be dealt with firmly: “The party should issue a show-cause notice to the two MPs and the 24 MLAs and call their bluff. We shouldn't worry about precipitating an election, because I have serious doubts whether these rebels can win their seats again on a YSR party ticket. The fact is the whole Jagan campaign is being fuelled by vast amounts of money, but it is not having any impact on the ground. Let me tell you, these MLAs actually don't want to leave the Congress.”
The party, these sources said, cannot afford to “dilly-dally” as it did when Jagan flouted the leadership's diktat on his yatra. “The party displayed its weakness by not acting in time, and we are suffering as a consequence.”
Indeed, the role of money power in the Congress' two–headed crisis in Andhra Pradesh is causing concern here in Delhi as well. A functionary said: “Choke off the Bellary brothers and our problems might just disappear.”