Adrift in Andhra

Nothing seems to be going right for the Congress and its government in Andhra Pradesh. If it's not Telangana, then it's the revolt within that keeps the Kiran Kumar Reddy government permanently in a crisis mode. Far from providing any respite, the disqualification of 16 Congress Members of the Legislative Assembly by the Speaker is likely to show up the continued erosion in popular support for the government. Indeed the delay in taking action against the 16 MLAs and in accepting the resignation of a member of the Praja Rajyam, now merged with the Congress, is indicative of the ground ceded by the Congress to the breakaway YSR Congress of Jaganmohan Reddy. The disqualification comes nearly three months after the government won the December 5, 2011 confidence vote. Not just the delay, the timing too betrays the mood disorders in the Congress camp. Clearly, the party did not want elections to be called early to fill the vacancies, fearing defeat by the breakaway Jagan group. But the disqualifications could not be delayed indefinitely, as biennial elections to fill vacancies in the Rajya Sabha from the State are due by the first week of April. What the Congress seems to have ensured is that the 17, or those who replace them in by-elections, would not be present to elect members to Parliament's upper house. However, such political tactics only bring short-term gains. Come 2014, the Congress will have to deal with both the main opposition, the Telugu Desam Party, and the YSR Congress. No tactical manoeuvre can avoid or delay this confrontation.

For now, Kiran Kumar Reddy is safe on the saddle. With the help of Praja Rajyam, led by actor Chiranjeevi, the Congress can manage the numbers in the Assembly. But the party is not expected to do well in the seven by-elections on March 18, six of which are in the Telangana region. Telangana Rashtra Samiti legislators have made a habit of resigning their seats and winning again from the same constituency. For the party, the real anxiety ought not to be about winning in the controlled environment of a confidence vote, but about coming through the dust and mayhem of a general election. At stake is not just the survival of the State government but the long-term future of the Congress in south India's largest province. Going by the way it has mishandled the political challenges posed by the Telangana and Jagan factors, the party will be struggling to hold its own in Andhra Pradesh.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 1:18:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/adrift-in-andhra/article2961025.ece

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