Certainly not in contention for power in Seemandhra, Congress sees the May 7 elections in this successor State of Andhra Pradesh as preparations for the 2019 polls even as it hinted that it may not be averse to taking former Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy back into its fold.
Projected by opposition parties as villain of the piece in the division of Andhra Pradesh, Congress, which has seen exodus of leaders protesting bifurcation, is now looking at a decent vote percentage in the high-stakes election in Seemandhra, where polls would be held for 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats in what is seen as a direct fight between TDP-BJP combine and YSR Congress Party.
Asked if Kiran Kumar Reddy, who quit Congress in protest against the bifurcation of the state and formed Jai Samaikyandhra Party, will be welcomed back into the national outfit, Congress General Secretary in charge of party affairs in Andhra Pradesh, Digvijay Singh said, “If he wants to come back, he has to first make up his mind. As far as we are concerned, he (Reddy) went out; we never threw him out.”
“Its very unfortunate the way Kiran has acted (quitting Congress and forming JSP)”, Singh said but, referring to some key JSP leaders deserting Reddy recently, added, “He is in for a great disappointment. He is left alone.”
Singh dismissed suggestions that the Congress is “nowhere in the picture” in Seemandhra.
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“We have our workers intact. Leaders may have gone but the workers are still with the party,” he said. Union Minister and senior party leader Jairam Ramesh admitted that it’s a ridiculous statement to make that Congress would come to power in Seemandhra.
“Our strategy is to ensure a decent, respectable and politically significant vote percentage. That’s our primary objective,” he said and noted that a lot of people, including M M Pallam Raju, have stayed back in the Congress.
“Its not true to say that everybody has gone. People who have business interests to protect, have gone. Rayapati, Lagadapati, Megapati…all the ‘patis’ who have business interests to protect are gone. People who are wedded to their political interests have stayed back,” Ramesh said.
He said the Congress is going to get a completely new generation of leaders in Seemandhra. “The 2014 elections will be a preparation for the next round of elections.”
Ramesh said while there is a lot of anger in Seemandhra over the bifurcation and people would have been a little happier if Hyderabad was declared as a Union Territory, there are benefits from the AP Reorganisation Act.
Arguing that all the development in Andhra in the last 20 years was Hyderabad-centric, he said, “freed from Hyderabad”, Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Nellore will now “take off”.
“In many ways, Hyderabad which is a magnet has also been a drag on the rest of Seemandhra.”
He noted that the Act has many commitments, including special category status for Seemandhra and establishment of educational institutions.
“I don’t think Seemandhra could have got a better deal from bifurcation. If any bifurcation was inevitable, this was the way to do it,” Ramesh said.