Kiran said he felt "betrayed" by his party colleagues who are loyal to rebel leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, and accused them of "cheating" the Congress with the main objective of defeating its official nominee Mohammad Jani in the election held on Thursday.
"The MLAs loyal to Jagan repeatedly promised and assured me that they will indeed vote for the Congress candidate in the council elections. In fact, I told them that we will withdraw the fifth candidate from the fray if at all they have other plans. Except three or four, rest said they will vote for the Congress, but in the end they cheated the party," Reddy told mediapersons in Lucknow.
He revealed that some of the Jagan loyalists approached him and sought a change in their first preference vote in favour of the Majlis Ittihad Muslameen candidate, and "I agreed". "Accordingly, we altered our strategy, but their main objective was to defeat the Congress' official candidate," he added.
"On the face of it, 10-11 votes of Congress were crossed in favour of MIM. Overall the number of votes crossed could be 20. Anyhow, the MIM is our ally," he said. In the end joh jeeta wohi sikander, Reddy quipped.
Asked if he personally felt cheated, the chief minister remarked, "It's not me as such. It's the party that has been cheated."
Looking distraught over the election results, wherein the party had a providential escape from defeat, the chief minister -- in an oblique reference to the Jagan-loyal MLAs -- observed it was now important to assess "who is a friend and who is an enemy" of the party.
Noting that initiating action against the rebel MLAs was a different issue, Reddy said the Congress would take care of them. "Those who won on a party ticket should toe the party line. But it did not happen that way, as the results showed. We will report all this to the high command," he said. However, there was no scope for disqualifying a member who cross voted against the party directive, he maintained.
On the Telugu Desam Party's allegation that the Congress indulged in horse-trading, the chief minister remarked, "There are no horses for trading". On some Congress seniors' grouse that they were forced to vote for a rival party, Reddy said the seniors spoke to him on the issue. Only some fourth preference votes were given to other parties, he said.
According to him, the Election Commission should think of holding council polls on the lines of Rajya Sabha elections. "Since both the elections are for the Upper House, it's better to have a similar voting pattern."
About the challenges for the Congress from the Jagan camp in the ensuing elections to the council from the local authorities constituencies and the subsequent by-elections to Kadapa Lok Sabha and Pulivendula Assembly segments, Reddy said, "We will cross every bridge when it comes."
Jani, whom the Jagan group sought to defeat, would be deputed to Kadapa as Congress in charge for by-polls, he said.