After seeing Andhra Pradesh through a difficult 14-month period, 78-year-old Konijeti Rosaiah stepped down as Chief Minister to make way for a younger successor. In his short tenure as head of the government, Mr. Rosaiah did his best to calm a volatile situation. Using more tact than guile, he weathered one agitation after another engineered by disparate groups who were in single-minded pursuit of a separate State of Telangana. All this at a time when he was facing a muscular challenge from within his own party in the shape of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Evidently, events took their toll, and Mr. Rosaiah cited “advanced age and work pressure” as reasons for resigning at a politically crucial time for the State. For the newly sworn-in Chief Minister, 50-year-old Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, the same challenges remain in a more intimidating form. With the Srikrishna Committee that is going into the Andhra-Telangana issue due to submit its report by December 31, agitations in support of and against a separate Telangana State are likely to intensify.
Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy, previously the Speaker of the State Assembly, was a YSR loyalist. But that will not make the task of handling Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy any easier. Jaganmohan, who evidently regards the chief ministership as a family entitlement, has been in unremitting revolt in his own cause. He has dared the Congress high command to take action against him by allowing Sakshi, a Telugu news television channel run by him, to telecast views critical of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. For whatever reason, Mr. Rosaiah was hesitant to take a tough line against the son of his predecessor. Jaganmohan, probably interpreting this as a sign of weakness, has been upping the ante against the Congress leadership. The new Chief Minister, despite his previous connections with the YSR family, cannot go down the same road. True, the Congress has only 156 members in the 294-member Assembly and will not be able to risk a revolt by MLAs loyal to Jaganmohan. While an alliance with the Praja Rajyam Party, which has 18 MLAs, is a possibility, the ruling party will not want to deepen the crisis on this front when the Telangana issue poses a serious threat to political stability. Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy is expected to get a Deputy Chief Minister from Telangana, but the Congress will have to move beyond such tokenism in responding to the separatist challenge. Moreover, the new Chief Minister and his team must be allowed to concentrate on the developmental challenge in south India's largest State. Governance must not be allowed to suffer, not even when the government is in crisis management mode.