By Mohammed Shafeeq, Hyderabad, March 5 IANS | 10 months ago

The Congress, which retained power in Andhra Pradesh in 2009, faces a tough challenge in both the successor states that will see assembly and Lok Sabha elections in April-May.

The party's prospects are bleak in Seemandhra, where large sections of people see it as a 'villain' for splitting the state.

In Telangana, where it hoped to reap political benefits of granting statehood, it faces a tough challenge with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) refusing to merge with it.

In Seemandhra, as Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions are together called, the YSR Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) appear forging ahead as indicated by some poll surveys.

The TRS may steal the show in Telangana by taking credit for finally carving out a new state out of Andhra Pradesh.

After passing the bill in parliament to carve out Telangana, the Congress was confident that TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao will merge his party with the Congress.

But he dealt a blow to the Congress by ruling out a merger. He even snubbed the Congress by saying that he would consider an electoral pact if the party approached him.

Forming a Telangana state was the only agenda of the TRS, floated by Rao in 2001.

He had stated that if the Congress helped it to achieve the goal, he will merge the party with the Congress.

However, he took a u-turn by citing the need to continue the party with the slogan of rebuilding Telangana.

"From now on, TRS will be a full-fledged political party. It will be the voice of people of Telangana," declared KCR, as he is popular among his supporters.

This came as a shock to the Congress although it is trying to put a brave front. Its leaders claim that they were not banking on TRS.

"We are not worried because people know it was the Congress which created Telangana through a vote in parliament against all odds," Congress MP from Nizamabad Madhu Yaskhi told IANS.

Claiming that there was tremendous response in villages and cities, he said even those not supportive of the Congress hailed its role after watching live the debate on the Telangana bill in the Rajya Sabha.

"People in Telangana see Sonia Gandhi as a goddesses who fulfilled their 60-year-dream," claimed the MP. Before TRS took the decision, Yaskhi had said they need the TRS as much as TRS needed them.

"We want that pro-Telangana and secular votes should not split as this may benefit the TDP-BJP," he said.

Congress leaders fear a rout in Seemandhra. The resignation of Kiran Kumar Reddy as chief minister and from the Congress and the desertion of loyalties by some leaders have dealt a major blow to the party.

Union ministers including Jairam Ramesh, who was a key member of ministerial group on Telangana, are trying to contain the damage by taking to people the message that the Congress ensured the best possible deal to Seemandhra.

They are highlighting the components like special category status to Seemandhra for five years, development package, commitment to fund the new state capital and execute the Polavaram multipurpose project.

The YSR Congress, which strongly opposed bifurcation, appears ahead in Seemandhra. The TDP, which is promising to rebuild Seemandhra, also looks strong in the region.

Andhra Pradesh had been a bulwark of Congress for decades and stood by it in most difficult times. Despite the emergence of the TDP in 1980s ending its monopoly, the party remained strong.

In both 2004 and 2009, the state played a key role in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coming to the power at the centre.

The Congress not only retained power in the state in 2009 by bagging 157 of the 294 assembly seats but also won 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats.

The death of then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash the same year plunged the state into political chaos as TRS revived the movement for Telangana state.

Sidelined by the Congress, Rajasekhara Reddy's son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy floated the YSR Congress.

About two dozen legislators of the ruling party joined him. However, the Congress made up for the loss with the merger of the Praja Rajyam Party of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi.

At the fag end of its term, the party took a calculated risk of bifurcating the state. It may now appear to be proving a case of 'heads I loose, tails too I loose'.

(Posted on 05-03-2014)

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