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The Rediff Election Special / A Ganesh Nadar in Hyderabad

A tale of three parties

May 11, 2004

Dawn slipped in quietly in Hyderabad on May 11. Andhra Pradesh's slumbering citizens had no idea that a few hours later a nine-year-old government would unceremoniously be shown the door.

Later in the day, Gandhi Bhavan -- the headquarters of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee -- showed signs of that unexpected result. There were more reporters than Congressmen around.

This was because the celebrations were taking place at Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy's home in Banjara Hills. This is the man behind the Congress' stupendous performance in the Andhra Pradesh assembly election, the man tipped to be the state's next chief minister.

Party workers were streaming in with bouquets and garlands, bursting crackers, distributing sweets and raising slogans to celebrate their victory.

YSR, who looked a bit dazed -- as if the enormity of the victory had yet to sink in -- was addressing a press conference on the road outside his home. He chose to remain non-committal even though the party workers themselves had no doubt as to the identity of the state's next chief minister. He also refused to say anything about the formation of a separate Telengana state, a long-standing demand of their poll partner, the Telengana Rashtra Samithi.

The victorious Congress MLAs will meet at Gandhi Bhavan at 11 am on May 12 to elect their leader. CWC member Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress leader Shivraj Patil will arrive in Hyderabad to oversee the process. The choice will then be ratified by the Congress high command, Sonia Gandhi.

YSR, meanwhile, left in a cavalcade to the nearby Panjagutta crossroads to garland Rajiv Gandhi's statue. It was a gesture of gratitude; YSR, who was first made APCC president by Gandhi; he also became the youngest Congress state president.

The scene was just as jubilant in TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao's home in Jubilee Hills, where his supporters celebrated by watching television, bursting crackers and cheering and congratulating each other. KCR refused to make an appearance; he knew he was in no position to dictate terms to the Congress, which polled an absolute majority on its own. His party workers, however, more than made up for his absence with their enthusiasm.

At YSR's residence, the National Security Guard arrived to protect the man they believed would be AP's next CEO.

In contrast, the mood at the air-conditioned Telugu Desam Party office was sombre. The cadre were silently watching the disaster unfold on television. Even the police personnel stationed there for security reasons were listless. P L V Prasad, chairman of the TDP's high-flying technology committee, was sullen and refused to comment on the party's disastrous performance. When prodded, he acidly remarked, "You can see what's happening on television. What do I need to tell you?"

The road to former chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu's home was, as usual, blocked for security reasons. The barriers were still in place. As were the sand bags. And the police. Only the press, who were present in full strength, were allowed beyond the barricades.

In Hyderabad today, all roads either converged towards Gandhi Bhavan -- where the state's new chief minister will be anointed tomorrow -- or Banjara Hills -- where the man who is most likely to fill that post lives at present.

Congress workers roared towards these destinations on motorcycles, vans and lorries fluttering the victorious Congress flag.

Heralding the morrow, a policeman outside Naidu's home told a colleague, "Now we can relax. There is no more work to be done here."

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India Votes 2004 | The Rediff Specials

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