Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana summoned staunch Sonia Gandhi loyalists in the state in an attempt to build pressure on state chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy on Monday, a day before the Telangana bill comes up in the Parliament.
Kiran, who has been protesting the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, had called a meeting on Sunday to decide on his future plans to either form a new party and resign, but the dismal attendance — just one MP, eight ministers, 28 MLAs and seven MLCs turned up — has been a shot in the arm for the Congress high command.
In comparison, Botsa's meeting was attended by around 40 MLAs, a dozen ministers and more than a dozen MLCs at his Jubilee Hills official quarters. Speakers at the meeting, including finance minister Anam Ramnarayan Reddy, felt that this is not the time either for resignations or leaving the party. "This is the time for mature moves and not emotional hiccups," said Reddy.
Botsa, who had earlier said that nearly 30 MLAs and a few ministers were ready to move to YSRC and TDP last month, said, "My meeting will decide how many (representatives) will go with the CM and how many will sail with the party high command. All the rebels were waiting for the CM to launch his new party, failing which they have to either look for new pastures or stay put."
Endowment minister and senior Kadapa MLA C Ramachandraiah said that Gandhi had advised every Congress leader to stay clear of falling into Kiran's trap. "The CM's new party plan was just for political advantage. Even if he resigns now, it will help as the T-Bill is at the final stage of endorsement in the Parliament," said Ramachandraiah.
Botsa, one of the three senior Congress leaders eyeing the CM's seat even if it is for a few months ahead of the general election, is happy at the turn of events. He is confident that the party high command will not accept Kiran's plea for dissolution of Assembly and president's rule in the state as it would be disastrous to the party's image and affect the poll outcome.
Meanwhile, sources in Kiran's camp said that he might resign on Tuesday after the T-Bill is taken up for discussion. Several local channels and web papers declared that Monday was his last day as chief minister. Kiran had stopped coming to the secretariat for the last 50 days and has even directed his office to return all files to the secretariat without endorsing them. Until last week, he used to clear files at an undisclosed location every weekend.
Post the bifurcation, Congress will be up against YSRC of Jagan and Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP in Seemandhra for175 assembly and 25 Parliament seats. In Telangana, it will face TRS, BJP and TDP for 119 assembly and 17 parliament seats.
The Bill was allegedly not taken up in the Parliament in view of Monday being the birth anniversary of TRS President K Chandrasekhar Rao. "Congress leaders did not want the Bill to be a gift of KCR. The Bill was endorsed by the President on December 9th (Sonia Gandhi birthday) and sent to Andhra on December 12th. "We don't want the Telangana initiative to slip out of Congress' hands and let the TRS or the BJP get the political advantage," said senior congress MP V Hanumanth Rao.