By initiating and then calling off an alliance with film star K. Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam for the upcoming polls to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the Congress party has sent out some confusing signals. In revoking the seat-sharing deal within a day of settling it with a party that fared poorly in the State capital during the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the State and central leadership of the ruling party clearly succumbed to pressure tactics from loyalists of Jaganmohan Reddy, Kadappa MP and son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. The proposed tie-up, orchestrated by Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee chief D. Srinivas, had the blessings of Chief Minister K. Rosaiah and at least the tacit approval of the party high command. The State leadership was evidently looking for a charismatic campaigner in the Greater Hyderabad region. Following threats issued by Jagan loyalists, the contracted marriage of convenience was cancelled. It is understandable that a bereaved party does not want to lose a prestigious contest just five months after a strong leader led it to a famous victory in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. But that is history.

Although the succession was handled soberly enough and Mr. Rosaiah’s continuance as Chief Minister may not be in question right now, many Congress leaders launched a vitriolic campaign against what they believed was a short-sighted alliance with the film star’s party, which had polled a mere seven per cent in Hyderabad and a little over 16 per cent of the vote in the State. The Jagan camp insists that the Congress cannot possibly benefit from a tie-up with the Praja Rajyam, which they say is free to merge with the Congress. At the heart of the continuing feud are the present role and the future of Jagan. By not involving him in the campaign and thus giving the impression that he was being marginalised, the State leadership only succeeded in complicating the situation. The fact that the Congress Legislature Party has not met even once after Mr. Rosaiah was sworn in as Chief Minister speaks volumes about his wobbly position. After party president Sonia Gandhi met Jagan and he formally agreed to abide by her decision, the high command might have thought it had resolved the crisis in the party’s southern stronghold. The policy of drift has taken a toll on both party and government, with the unassuming Chief Minister unable to rely on many of his Ministers despite repeatedly committing himself to the schemes and legacy of his predecessor. Perhaps, the high command wants to wait for the outcome of the November-end civic poll before taking a final decision. But the damage seems to have been done.

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