Originally Published 2011-02-19 00:00:00 Published on Feb 19, 2011
Corruption indulged in by late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in Andhra Pradesh was allegedly phenomenal, and since he died in a helicopter crash and left behind a legend, all allegations against him are now forgotten.
Message from the South
Kerala and Tamil Nadu are due to witness fresh Assembly elections in May. Karnataka's next Assembly elections are due only in 2013, but this may change depending upon the fast moving political developments there. In Andhra Pradesh, the Assembly elections were last held along with the parliamentary polls in 2009, and both elections will now be held in April 2014.

The merger of the Praja Rajyam Party led by Chiranjeevi has changed the political equations among the various parties in Andhra. Chiranjeevi is an action-oriented actor with a lot of stunt in his popular films. He has acted so far in nearly 150 films in his acting career of nearly 30 years. He has capitalised on the sentiments of the backward class of Kapu in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh.

In the southern states, a successful career in films means a sure passage into politics. M.G. Ramachandran of Tamil Nadu was the best example of this southern phenomenon. Born a Malayali, he became a popular hero in Tamil films and was hero-worshipped by large sections of the backward classes in Tamil Nadu. MGR, as he was called, took care to act in such films as showed him as the champion of the poor and the downtrodden, always fighting against the villains and emerging victorious, to the delight of the masses. He teamed up with Jayalalithaa, who became equally popular along with MGR.

To return to Andhra Pradesh, Chiranjeevi had his own illustrious predecessors like N.T. Rama Rao, who after a long career in films, founded the Telugu Desam Party and captured power in his very first political bid in the Assembly elections in 1983. The Telugu Desam was later hijacked by his son-in-law, Chandra Babu Naidu, who remains the leader of the TDP.

The merger of the Praja Rajyam Party of Chiranjeevi in the Congress comes at a time when the grand old national party is buffeted by political uncertainties created by the antics of Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of the late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, also called YSR. YSR was a phenomenon in Andhra politics since he not only captured power in the state after the 2004 and 2009 elections, but also ensured 33 parliamentary seats for the Congress party in the 2009 polls, which enabled the Congress to form the UPA-II government.

Corruption indulged in by YSR was allegedly phenomenal, and since he died in a helicopter crash and left behind a legend, all allegations against him are now forgotten. YSR left behind a colossal financial base for his son Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is said to own a cement factory, a steel factory and a captive iron ore mine, all valued anywhere between Rs 4000 crore and Rs 5000 crore, if not more. Jagan has his own captive newspaper and a TV channel. There is no demand for a CBI enquiry into his sources of wealth so far, but it is bound to arise sooner or later.

Jagan is too ambitious and will not stop short of becoming the Chief Minister of Andhra. He has founded his own political party named after his father - the YSR Party. His blatant bids for chief ministership by manipulating the emotions of the Andhra people over the premature death of his father have been rebuffed by the Congress President. Jagan, however, is determined to show his political power. He went to the extent of demonstrating his strength by bringing his followers to Delhi and holding a demonstration. He claims to have at least 24 MLAs and two MPs on his side. In the event of 24 MLAs voting against the present government in Andhra Pradesh, it will fall since it has a majority of only about nine MLAs in a House of 293.

This explains the importance of the merger of Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party, which has 18 MLAs. The Congress in Andhra Pradesh also has the support of the Hyderabad-based MIM party, which has seven MLAs. Jagan's threat is, therefore, temporarily warded off. After the rebuff he suffered over his ambition of becoming Chief Minister, Jagan resigned his Kadapa parliamentary seat and also persuaded his mother to resign from her Assembly constituency. The byelections are due and as and when these are held, Jagan is most likely to win them. However, this alone may not mean much since the real test will come only in April/May 2014 when the parliamentary and assembly elections are due.

There is also the factor of Telangana which is waiting to explode into a law and order problem sooner or later. After the submission of the Justice Srikrishna report and its publication - it has suggested several options - the Centre is yet to announce what option or options it has chosen. However, indications are that the formation of Telangana is ruled out and what may emerge is a constitutionally guaranteed regional set-up for the Telangana districts. Hyderabad city may become a Union Territory and united Andhra Pradesh by and large may continue.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi led by K. Chandra Shekhara Rao will not accept this dispensation and widespread disturbance of law and order could be expected in Hyderabad city and several Telangana districts. The Centre is prepared to face the situation.

The Congress Government in the state, with Kiran Kumar Reddy as Chief Minister, is safe for the present. The Andhra Assembly has a strength of 293, the Congress has 156 seats and it can now count upon the 18 MLAs of Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party and seven MLAs of the MIM. The Telugu Desam Party has 92 MLAs, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi 10. However, all these parties together with Jagan's 24 MLAs are not in a position to destabilise the present Congress government in the state. The trial of strength has to wait for the 2014 elections when the Congress will have to face the TDP, the TRS and the newly formed YSR Party, which has a strong following in the Rayalaseema region. By and large, there will be an uneasy peace in Andhra but the Congress government may continue.

In Tamil Nadu, which will go to the polls along with Kerala in May, the DMK-Congress alliance has a strength of 135 members in a House of 235. Negotiations are on for seat sharing, and the Congress is making a determined bid to get a minimum of 60 seats from its present strength of 36. There is also the PMK party of Dr Ramadoss which holds sway over a section of the backward classes and has a strength of 18 MLAs. The PMK is negotiating both with the DMK and the AIADMK and would eventually opt for the party which is most likely to emerge as the majority party.

The other major Dravidian party, the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa, has 57 MLAs, and certain minor parties like the MDMK are allied with it. Jayalalithaa has been cashing in on MGR's charisma, but she is unlikely to defeat the DMK-Congress combination. She is hoping to fully exploit the 2G spectrum scam that led to the exit of Raja, who was close to DMK chief Karunanidhi. However, Karunanidhi has claimed that the people in Tamil Nadu are more worried about the high prices than the 2G scam or any other scam. Eventually, the DMK-Congress alliance is most likely to emerge with a majority and enable the DMK to form its ministry again.

That leaves Kerala in the South. The political tradition of Kerala has been such that the CPM-led Left Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front have been coming to power after alternate elections. In the last assembly elections in 2006, the Left Front emerged successful with 82 MLAs in a House of 141. The Congress secured 24.

The political equation may change and the Congress is making a determined bid to win back the state in the May elections. Congress veterans A.K. Antony, Oommen Chandy and Vayalar Ravi will all be working hard to ensure the party's success. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself will be making a four-day visit to the state. The UDF led by the Congress won a majority of the panchayat elections held in the state recently. The unseating of the CPM-led Left Front in Kerala would be the precursor of the CPM-Left Front government being dethroned by the Trinamool Congrees and Congress combine in West Bengal.

(The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal and now an Advisor to Observer Research Foundation)

Courtesy: The Tribune

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