Andhra turmoil: Jaganmohan quits, Congress unmoved (Intro Roundup)

Monday, November 29, 2010

HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI - The Congress suffered a blow Monday when Kadapa MP Jaganmohan Reddy and his legislator mother Vijaylaxmi quit the party with a view to weakening the Congress in its bastion of Andhra Pradesh.

The dramatic resignation came five days after Kiran Kumar Reddy, a former associate of Jaganmohan’s father and late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy or YSR, was sworn in as the new chief minister.

The Congress brushed away the challenge, saying the country’s oldest party “is greater than individuals”.

While resigning earlier in the day, Jagan alleged that he and his family were insulted by the party on several occasions since the death of his father. He said he had no other option but to quit the party.

“Why did you create division in the family? What crime had we committed?” Jaganmohan asked in his emotive letter to Sonia Gandhi, accusing the party of luring his uncle Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy away with a ministerial post in the new Andhra government.

While Jaganmohan resigned as MP, his mother also gave up her assembly seat.

But despite the resignations, Andhra Pradesh’s new cabinet will be sworn in Wednesday.

Kiran Reddy met Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan and submitted a list of ministers. The governor will administer oath of offive and secrecy to a deputy chief minister and other ministers.

Kiran Reddy took charge after K. Rosaiah, chief minister since YSR died in September last year, resigned last week. Jaganmohan has been campaigning against Rosaiah after he was denied the chief minister’s chair after YSR’s death.

Protests against the Congress broke out in parts of Andhra Pradesh after Jaganmohan resigned from the party and parliament.

His supporters attacked Congress offices in Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor districts. Dozens of lower-rank Congress leaders resigned from the party.

In Hyderabad, hundreds gathered outside his residence in Banjara Hills to express solidarity with him. They raised slogans in his praise and against the Congress and party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Congress sources admitted the developments needed to be watched carefully.

“The Jagan story has begun today. One has to see how it affects the Andhra Pradesh and national politics,” an MP from the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) told IANS.

On paper, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh does not appear to be in immediate danger unless Jaganmohan woos a substantial number of legislators to his fold.

The Congress has 156 members in the 293-member house even after the resignation of Vijaylaxmi. With the Telangana campaign gaining momentum, the party is trying to ally with actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, whose Prajarajyam Party has 18 legislators.

The All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a regional party that is part of UPA, has seven legislators. There are four independents.

On the opposition side, the Telugu Desam Party has 89 members, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) 11 and the Left parties five members.

Reacting to Jagan’s and his mother’s resignation, Congress spokesman Janardan Dwivedi said: “It is their decision. The party has nothing to do with it. They must have perceived the pros and cons but I would like to say emphatically that the Congress is greater than individuals.”

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was away visiting her constituency Rae Bareli when Jaganmohan released his letter of resignation. But he appealed to his supporters not to quit the state assembly.

Jaganmohan’s campaign against the party took a sharp turn when his Sakshi TV channel aired programmes criticising Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A Sakshi programme also mocked at Rahul Gandhi’s campaign in Bihar, where the party suffered a rout.

Congress MP V. Hanumantha Rao said Jaganmohan’s exit would have “no effect” on the Congress in Andhra Pradesh as the party was “very strong”.

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