Chiranjeevi’s PRP merges with Congress (Roundup)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD - In a major realignment of political forces in Andhra Pradesh, Telugu superstar K. Chiranjeevi Sunday announced the merger of his Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with the ruling Congress after a meeting with Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi in the national capital.

The actor-turned-politician said there was “no opposition” from within his three-year-old Andhra regional party to the merger.

“PRP will now merge with Congress. As of now, Chiranjeevi is part of Congress family,” Union Law Minister, M. Veerappa Moily told reporters here, with the Telegu superstar Chiranjeevi standing by his side.

Asked if he expected a cabinet berth, Chiranjeevi said, “I don’t expect anything. It is their (Congress) duty to allocate…”

Chiranjeevi, who had floated PRP in 2008, said he remained committed to social justice. “The merger will help in achieving the goal of social justice.”

I am for the betterment of the people of the state, he told newsmen.

Saying that there were no motives, Chiranjeevi said he was not going to join the state government. There is no such idea. It is a historic day, he added.

The meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Chiranjeevi Sunday took place at the invitation of the Congress president.

The decks were cleared for the merger following a meeting between Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Chiranjeevi in Hyderabad early this week.

The Congress has been worried over the threat posed by former party MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy to its government in Andhra Pradesh and had been trying to woo the PRP to either merge with it or join the government.

The PRP has 18 legislators in the 294-member assembly. The Congress with 156 members, enjoys a slender majority.

The merger evoked mixed reactions in Andhra Pradesh. While the majority of PRP legislators welcomed the move, at least two legislators supporting Jaganmohan Reddy criticised Chiranjeevi.

There were celebrations at the PRP headquarters in Hyderabad as supporters and fans of Chiranjeevi said they would continue to back him irrespective of the party he is in.

State Congress spokesman N. Tulasi Reddy said the merger would strengthen the party in Andhra Pradesh.

However, Congress leaders from Telangana, including ministers, MPs and MLAs, went into a huddle to discuss the development as Chiranjeevi is opposed to the demand for a separate Telangana state.

Pro-Telangana groups see the development as an attempt by Congress party to weaken Telangana movement.

Jaganmohan Reddy’s camp hit out at Chiranjeevi, saying the merger was for his selfish interests.

The merger comes ahead of the budget session of the state assembly beginning Feb 17.

will not be displayed