Seemandhra Congress MPs have been literally caught in a cleft.
They had no option but to oppose the party’s decision to create Telangana, if they were to survive politically in a divided Andhra. They chose to be villains inside the House and inside the party. Lagadapati Rajagopal’s pepper-spray antic last week in Lok Sabha was part of the difficult positions the party MPs had to take.
There were 20 Congress Seemandhra MPs out of 25, and six of them were ministers before the Telangana bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. D Purandeswari, minister of state for human resources, has resigned from the council of ministers as well as from the party. Lagadapati Rajagopal and Magunti Sreenivasa Reddy too have resigned.
Across Seemandhra the mood is one of anger, despair and disappointment as the division of the state into two, moves closer to becoming a reality.
“Sonia Gandhi as Peddamma (badi maa) and Sushma Swaraj as Chinnamma (choti maa) have ruined the future of 5 crore people of Seemandhra,” said Talari Manoj, 26, a student of SV college of Tirupati .
Out of all this only Lagadapati has emerged as a hero for his timely use of the pepper spray which may have brought tears to many parliamentary eyes that day but in the end there wasn’t bite enough to stop the bill from being passed.
“Lagadapati did whatever he could, even used pepper spray to beat the hostile competition, what did others do?” asked Vidya Naidu, 24, an engineering student of Sidhartha college, reflecting the general mood.
In Kadapa district, the home of YSR congress president Jagan Moahan Reddy, people feel MPs did not do much. “Lagadapati used pepper spray only. Had it been left to us or Jagan, we would have even thrown country bombs,” said Veerashiva Reddy, an aide of a Congress MLA.
This mood is reflected among the Congress MPs as well. MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao said the Congress will be reduced to a zero in Seemandhra, and people like him and others have no option but to leave the party and explore alternatives. He said N Kiran Kumar Reddy will be floating a party and some of them will be in it. He said they will get down to the act sometime early next month.
But not all are abandoning the sinking ship of Congress in the region. K Bapiraju from Narsapur, who takes pride in his 36-year career as a legislator in the state assembly and in Parliament, vows that he will never leave the party and that he will fight for the cause of Seemandhra from within the party.
Magunti Sreenivasa Reddy said Congress leaders were not willing to accept any of the demands made by Seemandhra MPs. He said they wanted Hyderabad to be a Union Territory for the 10 years it is to remain the joint capital of the two new states, and that Seemandhra should be given a special status category. He said that the people of Anantapur and Kurnool — two of the districts which fall
in the Rayalaseema area — wanted to be with Telangana, but it was not accepted.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress members are not too worried about their stakes in Seemandhra because they stand to gain from the bifurcation.
They are aware that Congress will be wiped out and Kiran Kumar Reddy’s proposed new party will not be a force to reckon with. Congress central office sources are more philosophical. They say they are bound to lose one election because of the Telangana decision but they hope to regain lost ground after five years.
The Congress members of Seemandhra are left with no solace. They know that they have to face people’s ire and the party’s high command can offer no solace. Worst placed are those like Pallam Raju and Kavuri Sambashiv Rao since popular anger is directed at them.
“These MPs and ministers misled us till the last minute saying they would some how stall the bill in Parliament. But they miserably failed,” said Prakasraj, a state government employee from Eluru.
“Our MP Panabaka Lakshmi has been candid from the beginning that Telangana cannot be stopped and that we should ask for more package and funds,” said Narayana Rao, a retired AIR reporter from Nellore.