ANDHRA PRADESH

Leadership issue premature: MSR

VISAKHAPATNAM DEC. 25. Elected MLAs would be the sole factor in deciding the leader in the event of the Congress coming to power in the State during the next Assembly elections, the APCC president, M. Satyanarayana Rao, declared here on Wednesday.

Seeking to put at rest the debate within party circles over who should be the next Congress Chief Minister, he told a press conference that it was premature to raise this issue given that elections were two years away.

"The tradition in the Congress is that either the MLAs elect the leader or authorise the party high command to decide for them. Under Sonia Gandhi's leadership, however, MLAs have chosen the Chief Minister in all the States where the Congress has come to power,'' he pointed out. To the demand voiced for making a Backward Class leader the next Chief Minister, Mr. Satyanarayana Rao found nothing wrong in such desires being expressed within the party and "I would be the happiest person if such a candidate emerged with all the required qualifications.''

He was, however, not happy with sloganeering in support of the candidature of leaders like Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. "I have told the slogan-shouting followers that such action does more harm than good to the leader being projected by them as it immediately sparks dissidence for the CM-hopeful,'' Mr. Satyanarayana Rao said.

He was confident that the Congress would successfully fight the next elections as a united force and on people-related issues. He claimed that the Modi victory in Gujarat had rendered the Telugu Desam president and Chief Minister, N.Chandrababu Naidu, a worried man as it had led to the Bharatiya Janata Party riding roughshod on its NDA partners and friendly parties. The BJP, he pointed out, had enlisted the support of parties like the TDP and DMK by putting the fear of the Congress in them but it was now out to swallow them.

Mr. Satyanarayana Rao held the TDP Government responsible for the hardships being faced by people over lack of adequate water for drinking and agriculture. "He (Mr.Naidu) has done a great disservice to the people by neglecting the priority areas of irrigation and power, he alleged.

Referring to the ongoing programme of panchayat sadassus, he said that the Chief Minister had undermined the authority of the local bodies by letting the bureaucracy usurp their powers. The Congress, he disclosed, would undertake the campaign of educating the sarpanches on the rights and powers of grassroot-level democratic institutions before resorting to an agitation in March.

``We would also be incorporating the promise of restoring the powers of Panchayat Raj institutions in the party manifesto during the next elections,'' Mr. Rao announced.