The Congress on Monday was hopeful of riding the political storm caused within its Andhra Pradesh unit by the sudden death of Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, but admitted it would be a tightrope walk. And, there is quiet acknowledgement that no ruling arrangement in the State can be stable without the support of “YSR loyalists.”
For now the party is continuing with its wait and watch policy, even as some key players of the pro-YSR group and detractors are trickling into the Capital seeking an audience with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her aides.
Two Congress leaders — Lok Sabha member Arun Kumar Vundavalli and Working Committee member K. Keshava Rao — are understood to have already met her, while Dr. Reddy’s adviser K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao arrived in the Capital on Tuesday evening to meet with Ms. Gandhi.
When asked about the situation in Andhra Pradesh, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi pointed out that this was not the first time the party had to deal with government formation in a State. “We have an established procedure” as per which the party does not entertain jostling for position during the mourning period.
Such being the case, the Congress leadership stoutly denied reports of Ms. Gandhi setting up a three-member committee — Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and M. Veerappa Moily besides Digvijay Singh — to go to Hyderabad on September 11 to gauge the mood and convene a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party.
Though the Congress central leadership has taken a grim view of the campaign to anoint Rajasekhara Reddy’s son and Kadapa MP Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy as the next Chief Minister, party leaders conceded that such an outpouring was natural under the circumstances; particularly given the stature YSR enjoyed in the State. In fact, some leaders are of the view that the show of support for Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy was not engineered as is being made out by his critics.
Meanwhile, former Pradesh Congress Committee president and Rajya Sabha member V. Hanumantha Rao criticised the attempts made in some quarters to take the Chief Ministership issue to the media during the mourning period. ``We have a lot of respect for Rajasekhara Reddy as he had done a lot for Andhra Pradesh.” But there is a party high command and feelings, if any, by any one, should be conveyed to it through proper channels, he told The Hindu here.
Some party seniors from the State said the Congress leadership had seen many challenges from various quarters over the years, and “mere black mailing” would not help. It could turn out to be counter-productive for those who were raising the Jagan issue.
Karim Nagar MP and convenor of the Andhra Pradesh Congress MPs Forum Ponnam Prabakhar pooh-poohed the theory that Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy was a political novice; pointing out that he had been in politics for over a decade. Further, he had the backing of at least 90 per cent of the 33 Congress members in the Lok Sabha from the State. He had successfully campaigned in the recent Assembly/Lok Sabha elections in 10 districts. “I don’t see anything wrong in him stepping into YSR’s shoes.”