With the resignations of all its legislators over the Telangana statehood issue, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) is hoping to cash in on the united Andhra Pradesh sentiment in the other two regions of the state.
Barring the party's honorary president, Y.S. Vijayamma, all 16 legislators of the party Thursday sent their resignations to assembly Speaker N. Manohar to protest the manner in which the Congress is handling the Telangana issue. By resigning en masse at a time when the Congress leadership is in the final stages of deciding on the demand for a statehood for Telangana, YSRCP has given a new twist to the politics over the contentious issue.
Political observers say the move is aimed at thwarting any attempt by the Congress to carve out a separate Telangana state. As all the legislators of the party hail from Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and Andhra regions), it was not a difficult decision. B. Karunakar Reddy, one of the YSRCP legislators, said the Congress was seeking to decide the Telangana issue on the basis of votes rather than the interests of various regions.
The members of the assembly appear to have taken the decision at the behest of party president Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who has been in jail for more than a year on charges of corruption and amassing illegal wealth.
Jagan, as the MP is popularly known, hails from the Rayalaseema region, which is considered a stronghold of the party. As the party has no major stakes in Telangana, he is believed to have given the go-ahead to the legislators to cash in on the united Andhra Pradesh sentiment in Seemandhra.
The resignations have put pressure on both the ruling Congress and the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which are divided along regional lines, over the sensitive issue.
Political analysts say that the candidates backed by YSRCP managed to win only a few sarpanch (village head) posts in Telangana in the first phase of panchayat elections held on July 23. The party, floated by Jagan in 2010 after resigning from the Congress party, put up a good show in Seemandhra.
Party leaders hope that the resignations would help them win more seats in Seemandhra in the second and third phase of the elections scheduled to be held on July 27 and July 31.
YSRCP has always had a problem in creating a base for itself in Telangana, which comprises 10 districts, including Hyderabad. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and pro-Telangana groups had not allowed Jagan to conduct his 'odarpu yatra' in the region in 2010 as he stood along with other Seemandhra MPs in the Lok Sabha to protest the Dec 9, 2009, statement by the centre to initiate the process for the formation of Telangana state.
In Seemandhra, the young politician was successful during the yatra, which he had undertaken to console the family members of those who died of shock or committed suicide following the death of his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash on Sep 2, 2009.
YSRCP never took a clear stand on Telangana. It always maintained that it is for the centre to take a decision and that the sentiments of people of all regions should be respected.
The en masse resignations of the legislators have landed the party in trouble in Telangana, where it may lose whatever little support it has. Former minister Konda Surekha, a staunch loyalist of the late YSR, asked his widow Vijayamma to come out with a clarification on the resignations in two days.
"Our party is not confined to a particular region. I want to know from Vijayamma whether these resignations are the individual action of the MLAs or it is a stand taken by the party," said Surekha, who hails from Warangal district in the Telangana region. She threatened to chalk out her future course of action, if Vijayamma failed to give a convincing reply.
Vijayamma, who recently visited the Telangana region, had alleged that the talk of the state's division and also the proposal to split Rayalaseema by merging two of the four districts with Telangana were all aimed at targeting her son. "Unable to counter Jagan's popularity among the people, they are making these proposals," she had said in a recent interaction with the media.
Vijayamma had declared that if a separate Telangana state is created, YSRCP would contest in both the states. She even exuded confidence of the party coming to power in both the states.
The ground realities and the results of first phase of the panchayat polls, however, appear to have forced the party to change its strategy.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)