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Telangana row may scuttle Congress's RS prospects in Andhra

February 06, 2014 14:43 IST

The prospect of an upset worries the ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh as it faces a threat from a rebel candidate in the biennial election to Rajya Sabha slated for Friday.

The election will also be a test of loyalty for Congress leaders from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions as they claim to be championing the cause of a united state and are seen fighting against their own party.

Seven candidates are in the fray for the six seats in the election to be held from 9 am to 4 pm in the state Legislative Assembly. Of the seven contestants, three belong to Congress, two to Telugu Desam, one is from the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and one is an Independent, who is a Congress 'rebel'.

Counting of votes will be taken up at 5 pm, according to Legislature Secretary S Raja Sadaram.

A majority of the Seemandhra Congressmen, seething over the high command's "high-handed approach" to the state bifurcation issue, want to prove their might by defeating the party's official nominee. However, Congress has engaged the rebel to make him fall in line even at the eleventh hour

Sitting MP T Subbarami Reddy, who is seeking a third consecutive term for Rajya Sabha, may face a tough task.

The prospect of defeat also stares at TRS' K Keshava Rao who, on paper, does not have the required numbers to clinch victory. But he hopes the Telangana factor may help him secure the required number of votes of legislators from the region, irrespective of the party affiliation.

Given its current number of 146 in the assembly that has an effective strength of 279 MLAs, the Congress seems comfortable in ensuring the win of its three official candidates -- Subbarami Reddy, KVP Ramachandra Rao and M A Khan.

A candidate needs a minimum of 37-39 votes to win the Rajya Sabha seat from the state.

Khan hails from Telangana and is likely to have the full support of legislators from the region, while KVP -- a close associate of late Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy -- has a strong network of supporters among the MLAs.

Congress MLA Adala Prabhakar Reddy, who jumped into the fray as the rebel candidate, is fighting the election on the "Samaikya Andhra Pradesh" (united AP) slogan and banking on the support of fellow legislators who have openly spoken against the high command's decision to divide the state.

Senior-most MLA J C Diwakar Reddy is networking with other legislators to ensure Adala's victory.

Diwakar sought the support of YSR Congress, which has 17 MLAs, for Adala but the party that is also claiming to be championing the united AP cause has decided to "stay away" from the RS elections.

The YSRC has issued a whip to its 17 MLAs, and also six "associates," asking them not to take part in the voting.

But the Samaikya Andhra protagonists are said to be persuading the YSRC not to boycott the election and help the Congress rebel win "for united state's cause."

The Telugu Desam Party has 80 members in the House, a number adequate to get its two nominees -- Garikapati Mohan Rao and Thota Seetarama Lakshmi -- elected comfortably.

TRS' Keshava Rao -- who defected from the Congress -- may not have the sailing smooth.

Officially, the TRS has 17 MLAs and has the backing of four "defectors."

Communist Party of India, with four legislators, has announced its support for Rao, while the TRS has also sought the support of BJP (4 members) and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (7). All these numbers will add to 37 that could bring Keshava Rao to the edge of victory, but he will require at least two or three more votes to clinch the seat.

But, the Majlis reportedly made it clear to the TRS that it would not support Keshava Rao if the BJP, too, backed him.

"We can't be seen siding with the BJP on any issue," the MIM leadership reportedly told the TRS leaders.

BJP has so far not committed anything on backing the TRS candidate. In the event, the TRS will have to bank largely on the Congress to see Keshava Rao through.

"Given the regional divide in the state, we may support Keshava Rao since we want a Telangana leader to win," said Information Technology Minister Ponnala Lakshmaiah.

In such a case, the threat for Congress' official nominee becomes greater, if the rebels affirm their loyalty to the cause of united AP.

Image: Pro-Telangana activists unveil a statue of Congress President Sonia Gandhi ' Photograph: SnapsIndia

Surya Desaraju
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