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AP: Congress MPs come to PM for answers

By Renu Mittal
December 21, 2009 23:22 IST
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Angry Congress MPs from Rayalseema and Coastal Andhra Pradesh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, asking him to resolve the Telangana tangle failing which they said it would be difficult for them to go back to the state as emotions were running high and they had no answers to the questions being raised.

The MPs are learnt to have blamed Union Home Minister P Chidambaram for the wording and timing of his announcement on Telangana, which they said has sent the message that the Centre is agreeable to the splitting of Andhra Pradesh and that now it is just a matter of time before the new state is born.

For the last one week, as agitations rage in Andhra Pradesh and concerned and upset MPs wait it out in Delhi -- waiting for the leadership to come up with a suitable follow up response after the home minister's midnight announcement -- Congress President Sonia Gandhi and All India Congress Committee have maintained a studied silence while the prime minister has been busy with global climate change issues in Copenhagen.

Moreover, no other senior party leader has any clue on what to do and how to diffuse the situation.

The party has been hopeful that its customary 'wait and watch' response and age-old strategy to let things "cool down" before moving in for a solution will work this time around also. So far there is no let up in the tension in Andhra Pradesh with speculation on the rise of the fate of the state chief minister who is under pressure from his colleagues to resign.

Sources say that the powerful mining lobby of the state is also trying to use this opportunity to get K Rosaiah out of the chief ministerial chair and instead bring in a chief minister from the mining lobby as the stakes are very high and the returns are even higher.

Home Minister P Chidambaram is himself not happy in his chair and wants to return to the finance ministry. Sources say he is credited with the view that under him inflation had not risen so much and that the prices of essential commodities were now out of control. Neither the prime minister nor Chidambaram are happy to see Pranab Mukherjee in the Finance Minister's chair and that is another sub-plot, which may create future problems for the Congress leadership.

Sources said that a meeting of the core committee is taking place late Monday night when the Congress leadership would once again put its head together to formulate a response to bring normalcy to the state where the situation is gradually getting out of control and where its becoming difficult to make different sides see reason.

The prime minister has promised the MPs a response by Tuesday. Whether that happens would depend on the discussions in the core committee even as senior leaders have begun to chant the consensus mantra and are at pains to explain that their line is unless there is consensus in the state assembly and a resolution is brought, there can be no question of bifurcation of the state.

But this positioning say Andhra MPs is unlikely to cool the temperature since it would ignite the pro-Telangana lobby, which has been in a celebratory mood every since Chidambaram's midnight announcement.

Within the Congress and the Government the blame game at the highest level is on with a large number of leaders blaming Chidambaram for pushing the party and the government into crisis mode and for misreading the situation on Chandrasehekhar Rao's health.

Senior leaders say that Chidambaram had informed the core committee that intelligence reports were saying Rao was sinking and unless he broke his fast he may not survive. Chidambaram's argument was that this would create a situation, which would be difficult to control.

Highly-placed sources say that Pranab, who was travelling that day in Jharkhand for the assembly polls, was of the view that the government should not give in to the blackmail tactics of Chandrashekhar Rao and that governments can neither act nor seen to be acting under pressure. He was also credited with the views that even if KCR is dying, that can be no reason to give in to his demands, as it would set off a chain reaction in other parts of the country.

Important members of core committee argued with Chidambaram that it would create political turmoil in Andhra and Rayalseema districts. Pranab returned to Delhi late in the night and by that time the two core committee meetings had already taken place and the decision was almost done.

Congress leaders are, however, at great pains not to reveal what was said by the Congress president and the prime minister on the issue during the discussions and whether they were in agreement with Chidambaram's line or whether Chidambaram acted after instructions from one or the other of them.

The AICC is continuing to maintain a studied silence, continuing to cancel the daily briefing as the party does not wish to take a stand one way or the other and now with the prime minister back from Copenhagen, the core committee would sit and deliberate on the best way to diffuse a highly volatile and explosive political land mine called

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi