Having got a new state, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi is weighing the options of a merger and an alliance with the Congress. And as of now it is inclined towards the latter option while the Congress is pushing for the former, sources in the two parties say.
TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao and his family met Sonia Gandhi Sunday. Sources close to him say he is likely to meet Congress general secretary-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh Digvijaya Singh and Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel in the next two days to formalise an arrangement for the elections. After meeting Sonia, he conceded he had thanked her for creation of Telangana but asserted politics was not discussed.
Rao’s son K T Rama Rao is said to be not in favour of an immediate merger, which TRS sources say can be a long-term goal. KTR and a large section of the party see their party in pole position, having been instrumental in reviving and realising the statehood demand, and feel a merger would amount to squandering that advantage.
Besides, the experience of Chiranjeevi appears to have contributed to putting the TRS off the idea of a merger. Many political analysts had foreseen the actor-turned-politician, who has a large following in Andhra Pradesh, carving out a space for himself when he had launched the Praja Rajyam Party. Since he merged the PRP with the Congress, he has become no more than one of the Congress’s many faces in the state.
And though the Congress is pushing for a merger, a section in this party too feels an immediate merger would result in either the TDP or the BJP moving into the second party’s space. “As things stand today, the TRS and the Congress enjoy tremendous goodwill in Telangana and there is little space for a third party. They have the potential to emerge the single and second largest parties. It is in our interest to keep Telangana politics bipolar,” a Congress leader said.
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The TDP has a significant presence in Telangana, one of the reasons for its nuanced stand on the division. It has never openly opposed the division and kept chanting the “Justice for Seemandhra” slogan. The BJP, which facilitated the passage of the Telangana bill in Parliament, too hopes to make inroads into the region.
The TRS, however, is expected to bargain hard for the lion’s share of seats — 75 of 119 — in the new assembly when the two parties officially begin talks. They were in alliance in Andhra Pradesh in 2004. TRS sources said they want to ensure they don’t depend on the Congress for formation of the government. It is not yet clear whether the assembly and Lok Sabha polls will coincide.
For the latter, TRS leaders said they would seek an 8:8 arrangement with the 17th seat, Hyderabad, given to the AIMIM. Some TRS sources, however, indicated they would be willing to settle for 6:10.