Crisis in Andhra as minister quits, 10 others unhappy

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

HYDERABAD - The Andhra Pradesh government plunged into crisis Thursday, a day after the new cabinet was sworn in, with a minister resigning over the portfolio given to him and 10 senior ministers expressing their unhappiness amid indications that they too could quit.

Angry over the allocation of all key portfolios to the Reddy community, senior ministers from backward classes and other communities were holding separate meetings to chalk out their next move.

Another group of ministers and legislators from Telangana was up in arms against Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy for not naming a deputy chief minister despite the announcement by the central leadership of the party.

With different groups holding separate meetings, pressure is mounting on Kiran Kumar to re-allocate the portfolios, ensure social justice and immediately appoint a deputy chief minister.

The ruling party, which has remained intact since 2004 when Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, known as YSR, brought it back to power in the state, appeared totally divided over cabinet berths and allocation of portfolios.

In a midnight drama, Vatti Vasantha Kumar sent his resignation both as minister and member of the legislative assembly.

His move came a few hours after the new chief minister allocated the tourism portfolio to him. He was rural development minister in the YSR and K. Rosaiah cabinets.

K. Venkat Reddy also told his supporters that he would quit as he was given an insignificant portfolio - infrastructure and investment. He was earlier the minister for information technology.

The portfolios were announced at 9 p.m. Wednesday, nearly 12 hours after 39 ministers were inducted in the cabinet.

Ten other ministers, including seniors like Dharmana Prasada Rao, Botsa Satyanarayana, Ponnala Laxmaiah, J. Krishna Rao, Damodar Rajanarasimha and Kanna Laxminarayana were also unhappy with the portfolios given to them. Mukesh Goud and D. Nagender, both from Hyderabad, were also sulking.

The senior ministers, who were given key portfolios by YSR in his first cabinet (2004-09) and retained them in the second, felt that injustice had been done to them.

The ministers were not likely to attend the first meeting of the new cabinet scheduled to be held at 4.30 p.m. Thursday, to convey their protest.

A group of ministers met at the residence of Dharmana Prasada Rao, a senior minister from north coastal Andhra. They felt that injustice has been done to backward classes, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and minorities in both the cabinet formation and allocation of portfolios.

There are 14 ministers, including the chief minister, from the Reddy community in the 40-member cabinet and 10 of them were given all important portfolios.

Another group of ministers and legislators met at the residence of Damodar Rajanarasimha, who too was in the running for chief minister’s office.

Though the central leadership of the party had announced that a leader from Telangana will be deputy chief minister, Kiran Kumar has not named anybody yet.

Taken aback by the sudden developments, Kiran Kumar held a meeting with some ministers at his office in the state secretariat. He deputed Finance Minister Anam Ramnarayan Reddy and former speaker Suresh Reddy to hold talks with the dissidents.

The central leadership has taken serious note of the developments. Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel and party general secretary in-charge of party affairs in the state Veerappa Moily spoke to Kiran Kumar over phone and directed him to take all necessary steps to pacify the senior ministers.

A couple of legislators, including former minister J.C. Diwakar Reddy, Wednesday openly voiced their unhappiness over not being inducted in the cabinet.

P. Ramachandra Reddy, one of the five ministers dropped by Kiran Kumar, Thursday told reporters at Tirupati that he would now work against the chief minister. “I will show him my strength,” he said.

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