Will Kiran Kumar Reddy ditch Cong for new party? అక్టోబర్ 27, 2013Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in Andhra, Andhrapreneurship, Congress, elections, politics, Rayalaseema, Telangana.
Tags: 29th state, Kiran Kumar Reddy
Will Telangana push Kiran Reddy into ditching Cong for new party?
PS Jayaram, October 23, 2013 Firstpost.Politics
As a former cricketer who captained the Hyderabad Under-22 team, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy firmly believes that the game is not over till the last ball is bowled. For this 53-year-old sportsman-turned-politician, the Telangana game is far from over.
But, with the UPA government remaining firm on its decision to create a Telangana state despite mass agitations, does he have too many options? Will the battle-scarred chief minister, lacking in political acumen and mass support base, really take the plunge and float a new regional party as is being speculated in political circles? These are some of the questions doing the rounds in the state about to go under the Centre’s knife.
A quick scan of Kiran Reddy’s political journey since 1989 when he was first elected to the assembly does look impressive at first glance, but in reality there is nothing even vaguely exciting about the four-time legislator. Yes, he did hold a couple of important positions, including that of government chief whip and assembly speaker, before he was catapulted to the hot seat in 2010 by the Congress high command, but that hardly says much about him as a leader.
In the past three years, Kiran Reddy expectedly faced rebellion from his own cabinet ministers and dissension in the state party unit. Ministers would openly criticize him (they continue to do so even now), boycott cabinet meetings and generally treat him like an equal rather than a leader at the helm of the state administration. He was often referred to as a non-performer who did not have the juice in him to lead a team or govern a state effectively.
All these perceptions about Kiran Reddy, not only among politicos but also among the general public, were about to undergo a change, though not dramatically, when the Congress Working Committee endorsed the decision to create a Telangana state on 30 July. He took his time to react publicly to the decision, but when he did do it, it caught everyone by surprise. The tone and tenor said it all when he questioned the party high command’s decision to divide the state without going into various issues like river water and revenue sharing, government jobs, irrigation and education. He arranged for interactive sessions with national media and television channels and began airing his views opposing the move openly. The people of Seemandhra, as the two regions are referred to, liked it.
The transformation that people were looking for in him however, was still not complete. The proverbial last straw for Kiran Reddy was the Union Home Ministry’s note on Telangana placed before the central cabinet, the constitution of a GoM to work out the modalities of division and the UPA government opting to take the fast track to complete the exercise.
Reddy, who has this penchant for using cricketing lingo to describe political situations, changed track and took on the centre and his party all guns blazing when he described the decision to divide the state as a ‘bifurcation storm.’ “I could not do much to stop Cyclone Phailin from hitting the state, but I will darn well try to stop the bifurcation cyclone that is set to ravage the state,” he said at a meeting in the cyclone-hit north coastal Andhra district of Srikakulam a couple of days ago. As people at the meeting cheered him wildly, one felt Kiran Reddy had arrived, with some even describing him as ‘Samaikhya Simham’ (Lion of united Andhra).
That brings us to the question on whether Kiran Reddy would take the biggest risk of his political career – will he float a sub-regional party that could make or mar his political career just months before the 2014 elections? The political mosaic in the state at the moment is too fragmented and divided along regional and caste equations. The Congress is on a losing wicket in Seemandhra for sure. The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is fast losing steam both in Seemandhra and Telangana, thanks to the constant flip-flops by party president N Chandrababu Naidu.
One person who has emerged as a king in the political chess-board, definitely in Seemandhra, and untested as yet in Telangana, is Kadapa MP YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who quit the Congress in 2010 and floated the YSR Congress (YSRC). Son of former chief minister late YS Rajasekhar Reddy, Jagan, as he is popularly known, has carefully plotted and nurtured his party into a force to reckon with, having done excellently in several by-elections and local bodies polls in the past three years.
Not only has Jagan been consistently attracting lawmakers and leaders from both the Congress and the TDP, his party has also majorly eroded into the support bases of these two parties. Jagan’s 16-month stint in jail in connection with the disproportionate assets case made him a martyr among many in Seemandhra, and he enjoys the advantage of his late father’s huge charisma still working in his favour. His fan following among the youth, women and minorities is something that other parties may find it difficult to match.
So, the political space in Seemandhra, the only place where Kiran Reddy can hope to make some impact, is very restricted if not non-existent. The chief minister too has his lot of loyalists, but he lacks Jagan’s perceived charisma and the stature of a mass leader. Hailing from a Chittoor family loyal to Congress – his father late N Amarnath Reddy was a minister in the state under P V Narasimha Rao – Kiran Reddy can’t claim to have a committed support base even in Rayalaseema region leave alone coastal Andhra, despite the fact that Congress cadres and some people in Seemandhra see him as a Messiah of the region, particularly after his ‘bifurcation cyclone’ statement.
Though there is one school of thought that believes that he would take the drastic step of resigning after the Telangana resolution or Bill is placed before the state assembly, it is unlikely that Kiran Reddy would make such a move. If one were to go by his recent utterances and open challenge to the party high command, it would appear that he is provoking them into initiating some kind of action against him. That would make him a martyr and place him in the same orbit, if not league, as Jagan, Kiran Reddy would then be making his moves from a position of advantage, and not merely be seen as a disgruntled element who tried to grab a political opportunity to further his own career.
But will the Congress high command oblige him? That remains the million dollar question!