Telangana demand met, Congress eyes merger with TRS
The Congress believes the Telangana Rashtra Samithi will decide in favour of a merger, as the decision on statehood has deprived the regional party of its chief electoral plank and an issue that defined its identity. Anita Katyal reports
The next step for the Congress, which formally accepted the longstanding demand for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, is to draw out a political roadmap for the future. This includes a merger with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.
The Congress party is eager to hear from TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao who had offered to merge his party with the Congress if it conceded his demand for a separate state of Telangana.
All eyes are on the TRS as the Congress admitted that it is inclined to accept Chandrasekhar Rao’s old proposal and is waiting for his response. The Congress party’s eagerness was evident from the remarks of Digvijaya Singh, AICC general secretary incharge of Andhra Pradesh, at Tuesday’s media briefing.
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Image: The announcement of creation of a separate state of Telangana was welcomed with jubilant celebration
Congress banking on TRS merger to recover lost political ground
When asked specifically about the possibility of TRS merging with the Congress, Digivijaya Singh did not hesitate to point out that its leader Chandrasekhar Rao had “repeatedly said that once Telangana was announced, he would merge his party with the Congress.”
“We will await his decision and will be favourably inclined to accept the offer of a merger,” Digivijaya Singh said while speaking to the media on the decision of the Congress Working Committee to form Telangana.
Although Singh’s statement was lost in the excitement over the formal announcement on the division of Andhra Pradesh, it holds considerable significance for the party’s electoral prospects in the soon-to-be created state of Telangana.
The TRS has spearheaded the Telangana movement and Chandrasekhar Rao is perceived as the man whose persistence forced the Congress to concede to a separate state.
Having been marginalised in the Rayalaseema and coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh by Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress, the Congress does not want to be squeezed out in the Telangana region.
It is banking on the TRS merger to recover the lost political ground in the proposed new state which has 17 Lok Sabha seats.
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Image: TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao
Is the TRS not keen on doing business with the Congress?
It has become critical for the Congress to win a sufficient number of seats in Telangana as it is facing a near wash-out in the other regions of the state.
The Congress had won 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 general election which had made it possible for the party to form the government at the Centre for a second consecutive term.
The possibility of a TRS merger with the Congress had looked a near certainty at one point. In fact, KCR had even camped in New Delhi over a year ago to discuss this proposal with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, but it did not work out.
Although the issue crops up periodically, the Congress and the TRS have, of late, not overtly pursued the proposal.
While the Congress was waiting to take up the matter after it had taken a formal decision on Telangana, the TRS has, of late, not been particularly keen on doing business with the Congress.
The Congress believes the TRS will eventually decide in favour of a merger as the decision on Telangana has deprived the regional party of its chief electoral plank and an issue that defined its identity.
The TRS, on the other hand, believes it does not need to merge with the Congress as it will emerge as the sole beneficiary in the coming elections. It believes it is viewed as the party that led the battle for Telangana.
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Image: Keshav Rao (right) addressing the media jointly with TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao in Hyderabad
'Happy with UPA's decision but wary about the Congress'
The situation may change in the coming days as both the Congress and the TRS reassess the situation in light of the emerging ground realities.
Former Congress leader Keshav Rao, who joined the TRS to protest the delay in the formation of Telangana, admitted that “it’s still a wait and watch situation.” In his initial remarks, Rao maintained it would not be in Andhra's interest for Hyderabad to be a shared capital. “We are happy with the UPA decision but wary about the Congress," he said.
Despite its positioning, the TRS has allied with the Congress in the past. It had partnered with the Congress in the 2004 assembly elections and won 26 state assembly and five Lok Sabha seats. Two years later, the TRS withdrew support to the UPA government on the plea that it had failed to deliver on its election promise to create Telangana. All TRS MLAs and MPs resigned from their positions in 2008 when the ruling alliance did not meet their demand for a separate state.
KCR, subsequently, intensified his agitation and forced the Centre to take note of it when he went on an indefinite fast in 2009 to demand a separate state, which led led to massive street protests. A panic-stricken UPA government surprised everybody when then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram announced that the Centre had accepted the statehood demand. The Centre, however, backtracked when this decision was met with violent protests in Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema.
This time, however, the Congress has taken all necessary measures before making the formal announcement to ensure there is no backlash outside Telangana region. Senior Congress leaders held several rounds of meetings with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, state leaders and ministers from Rayalseema and Andhra to assure them that the interests of their regions will not be jeopardised.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi urged them not to press their resignations, to accept the party decision and ensure that the law and order situation does not get out of hand.
The resolution adopted by the CWC sought to assuage them by making a special mention urging the government to address the concerns of Andhra and Rayalseema on matters relating to sharing of river waters, generation and distribution of electricity and safety and security of all three regions.