Jagan juggernaut in Delhi, challenges Congress in Andhra (Second Intro Roundup)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD - Taking his fight against the Congress to the heart of the national capital, former MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy Tuesday put up a massive show of strength with 31 Andhra Pradesh legislators and two party MPs. Police arrested and freed him late at night.

Jagan, as he is popularly known, declared that he was doing the Congress a favour by not bringing down the state government.

Delhi Police arrest and remove Jagan and his followers from the venue around 9 p.m. saying that the protest continued well beyond the time allowed. All of them were later released. The protestors had planned a 24-hour fast, which was to continue till Wedesday morning.

Adding to the woes of the ruling Congress, which is already facing the Telangana heat, the young leader, 38, arrived in New Delhi in a special train with 1,500 supporters and went straight to Jantar Mantar, the 186-year-old observatory in central Delhi that became the centrestage of his protest.

Accompanied by two MPs, Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy from Nellore and Sabbam Hari from Anakapalli, legislators, former ministers, other leaders and thousands of supporters, Jagan, as he is popularly known, staged a day-long fast to highlight the “injustice” to Andhra Pradesh in the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal Award and the plight of farmers.

Amongst the legislators were 24 MLAs from the Congress and four from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), his associates said. Three members of legislative council belonging to Congress party also supported Jagan at the fast.

“Currently I am doing a favour to the Congress party. If my MLAs resign, the government there will fall. In fact I am a gentleman so I am doing a favour to the Congress party by not asking my people to resign. If I wanted to seriously do it I would have done it long back,” a confident Jagan, who plans to formally launch his political party in the coming days, told the media.

“My people are also saying in 2014 they will be contesting on my party ticket and not on Congress party ticket. They are openly saying that they are doing a favour to the Congress party by continuing in the party.”

The numbers game could prove him right - the Congress has 156 members in the 294-member state assembly. It requires 149 members for a simple majority.

Faced with the challenge from the son of its charismatic chief minister, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the Congress hit back saying that its government was not under threat.

“The Congress government was never in any kind of a threat, is not in any threat and neither will be,” said party spokesperson Manish Tewari.

Was the confidence misplaced?

Congress legislator and actress Jayasudha, for instance, was categorical that she respected the party and its president Sonia Gandhi but would follow Jagan.

“I am a film actress and I was invited by the late YSR to join politics… Naturally, I will also follow Jaganmohan Reddy,” she told a TV channel.

“I will not join with BJP,” the former Kadapa MP said when a reporter asked him if he was open to an alliance with the National Democratic Alliance.

Jagan said he had already filed an application with Election Commission for registration of his party and it would take some more time for him to announce its name.

He also clarified that he would contest again for the Lok Sabha from Kadapa.

The 24-hour fast was to continue till Wednesday morning but Delhi police arrested Jagan and his followers around 9 pm for continuing their protest beyond the time given to them.

Police officials said the protest could not be allowed beyond 5 pm but they permitted them to continue till 8.30.

“Since you people are continuing your protest even after 8.30 pm we have to arrest you,” a police official said.

With Jagan issuing an open threat, Congress rushed its senior leader M. Veerappa Moily to Hyderabad. The party general secretary, who is incharge of party affairs in the state, held talks with Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and state Congress chief D. Srinivas.

Moily, however, told reporters that the Congress party knows its strength and it is not worried about Jagan.

“Congress has 125-year long history and we know our strength,” he said.

Kiran Kumar Reddy also held a meeting with ministers from Jagan’s native Kadapa district. Three ministers including Jagan’s uncle and agriculture minister Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy discussed the political developments with him.

Five of the 24 MLAs of Congress party who have joined hands with Jagan come from Kadapa district.

In Delhi, a large stretch of Parliament Street was blocked off by Jagan’s supporters, with a dais built in the middle of the road for the fasting leaders.

Jagan resigned from the Congress and his parliamentary seat after accusing the party leadership of trying to divide the family by luring his uncle with a ministerial berth.

Jagan has been on a collision course with the Congress since the leadership rejected his claim to the chief minister’s chair following the death of his father in a helicopter crash Sep 2, 2009.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member V. Hanumantha Rao said in Hyderabad that YSR was responsible for the Krishna tribunal verdict as his government failed to present strong arguments.

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