ANDHRA PRADESH

`Ending groupism in Cong. to be priority'

HYDERABAD May 22. The Congress-I is chalking out a strategy to end dissidence within the party and is planning to bring all groups together to improve its chances in the next elections. For once, the party seems to have taken a serious view of the rivalry among leaders and is contemplating putting an end to it.

According to the PCC president, M. Satyanarayana Rao, who will be completing three years in his present capacity, bringing truce among the warring factions is a priority now.

Mr. Rao will be completing his three-year term on May 25, an enviable track record for any Congress leader. It shall be a record of sorts as he will be the first PCC president to complete his full tenure in recent times. Mr. Rao is just short of completing 50 years of his political life by one and half years.

He is satisfied with his performance and thanks Sonia Gandhi for bestowing confidence in him so far. Talking to The Hindu on Tuesday he said: "However, I am ready to quit in the interest of the party if the high command feels so. I have not maintained any groups and I do not belong to any. I just belong to the party and the party's interests come first to me. My aim is to strengthen the party.''

Mr. Satyanarayana Rao is planning a meeting with the CLP leader, Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy, to tackle the problem of groupism within the party. "YSR's padayatra has created tremendous enthusiasm among the cadres. It has brought back several sections into our fold. The only hitch remaining now is the intra-party bickering. Once this obstacle is crossed, it becomes easier for us to win the elections.''

He identifies three districts, Khammam, West Godavari and Chittoor, as problematic ones and includes Vijayawada town also in the list. "These areas are crying for greater attention. The locals are against those imposed on them due to their Delhi connections. The party fared well in the Panchayat elections with the `select and elect' slogan. If we cannot sort out the differences, we shall seek the intervention of the AICC,'' he says.

He agrees that there are some leaders in the party with questionable scruples. "We lost Giddalur byelection because of one such purchasable leader. The TDP just bought him over. We cannot sit back and helplessly watch them do it to us. We will not give any room for anyone to do it to us again,'' he says.

Mr. Satyanarayana Rao is all for constituting booth committees at the earliest. Training camps and block-level meetings as directed by the AICC are also on the cards. The padayatra of Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy will be taken to its logical conclusion and there will be similar campaigns in all districts.

He welcomes the appointment of Ghulam Nabi Azad as incharge of party affairs of AP as a `good change' and comments "being an AICC leader it is wrong to support anyone blindly. Congress party has groups and it is important that every one is taken along with. Mr. Azad has done it successfully in Karnataka. He might do the same here.'' The obvious dig is at Vayalar Ravi who troubled Mr. Rao initially.

Lambasting the TDP rule, he says the Chief Minister will go down in history as `chief destroyer of AP economy' as his wrong priorities have delivered a deathly blow to several sectors.

``It is time for Chandrababu to go. He has ruined the economy. Irrigation, power and industrial sectors are facing serious crisis. Flyovers and hi-tec cities do not feed people. The Government has borrowed Rs.50,000 crores from external sources. Any realistic leader would have spent the money on productive investments. We could have tackled the crisis arising out of drought comfortably if the Government were to concentrate on bettering the rural economy,'' he remarks.

``Unless we close our ranks we cannot defeat the TDP. There is disenchantment everywhere with the present rule. We all have seen what happened to the Congress in Tamil Nadu. Do you want to meet a similar nemesis here,'' he asks his partymen.

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