TRS woos Congress, TDP legislators (Andhra Pradesh Newsletter)

Hyderabad, April 19 (IANS) Aiming to emerge the single largest party from Telangana in next year’s elections, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is going all out to woo Andhra Pradesh MPs and legislators from the ruling Congress as well as the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The sub-regional party is planning to rope in as many leaders as possible from the two principal parties for its anniversary meeting at Armoor town in Nizamabad district April 27. TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao, or KCR as he is known, has even set April 27 as the ‘deadline’ for leaders of the two parties to make up their mind.

It was last week after the party’s politburo meeting that KCR extended an open invitation to the leaders to switch their loyalties for what he calls a decisive fight to achieve a separate Telangana state.

Since then one TDP legislator has crossed over to the TRS and at least two Congress MPs have dropped hints that they may join them. However, TRS leaders admit the response so far has not been encouraging and are still hopeful of others joining their camp before the April 27 meet.

With the Congress yet to take a clear stand on Telangana, the TRS is mounting pressure on ruling party leaders to take a decision “in tune with the people’s aspirations”.

Political observers say most Congress leaders find themselves at the crossroads as the proposal for a front has also not taken off. There has been speculation for the last few weeks that union Minister S. Jaipal Reddy and state Minister K. Jana Reddy will float a separate outfit to bring together all pro-Telangana leaders who don’t want to sail with KCR.

The idea was reportedly dropped after it received lukewarm response from the majority of 50 Congress MLAs, who don’t want to disturb the government at this stage.

Congress leaders like Jana Reddy admitted it would be difficult for them to face people in the 2014 elections without the party fulfilling the Dec 9, 2009, promise to carve out a Telangana state. They want to keep up pressure on the party leadership to take an early decision.

Some observers feel Congress and TDP leaders may come under pressure at the grassroots level to join the TRS, which is seen as the only party wedded to the cause of Telangana. Similar pressure after the 2009 statement had forced about a dozen leaders from the two parties to defect.

The Congress, the TDP and the YSR Congress remain divided over Telangana along regional lines with their leaders from Andhra and Rayalaseema opposing the division of the state. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is now backing the demand, had opposed it while in power at the centre.

KCR, who floated the TRS in 2000, has already declared that the party would go it alone in the next elections.

“Having alliance with somebody can prove a liability to our agenda of achieving Telangana state in the coming days,” KCR said.

He believes only by bagging a majority of 119 seats in the 294-member assembly and 17 Lok Sabha seats (out of 42 from the state) will help achieve the Telangana goal.

This will be the first time in its 12-year existence that the TRS will not be in alliance with any party. It fought the 2004 elections with the Congress, which swept the polls to deny it the kingmaker’s role.

The TRS joined hands with the TDP and the Left parties in 2009 but its strength in the assembly came down from 26 to 10 and in parliament from five to two.

With the Congress retaining power, KCR faced a tough time. It was the death of then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash in September 2009 that altered the political scene. KCR revived the Telangana movement with an indefinite fast; the massive street protests forced New Delhi to announce that the process for a separate Telangana state would be initiated.

With the promise remaining unfulfilled, the TRS will be going to public with its oft repeated allegation that the Congress always betrayed over four-decade-old Telangana cause.

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