The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong in spot as Naidu plots poll

New Delhi, Oct. 22: The Congress has been caught napping by news that . Chandrababu Naidu is almost certain to call snap Assembly polls. The party would rather not face the electorate until it takes a stand on the demand for a separate Telengana state.

The chief minister is believed to have commissioned district-wise surveys to assess the public mood and gauge if the October 1 attempt on his life has generated a sympathy wave for him. The surveys will also assess if the sympathy wave resulting from the People’s War attempt to kill Naidu as he headed to the Tirupati temple can help overcome any anti-incumbency factor.

The Telugu Desam Party politburo and executive, which met for the first time on Monday after the attack, discussed the political fallout of the assassination attempt. No official announcement was made about the snap polls, but Naidu has been authorised to take a decision.

Sources say Naidu could dissolve the House on November 9, considered an auspicious date, if the feedback is “favourable”.

But this would depend largely on whether the Afro-Asian Games, which start in Hyderabad on Friday and conclude on November 1, go off smoothly. The dissolution date also depends on whether the Election Commission agrees to hold elections “latest” by January next year, instead of in April.

It is important for Naidu that the Afro-Asian Games are not affected by the instability that the speculation over election dates could cause. An equally important consideration is that the “sympathy” wave should not blow over by the time elections are held.

The chief minister has been under fire over rural indebtedness, which has led to many farmer suicides, the hike in power tariff and the stamp-paper scandal that led him to expel controversial MLA Krishna Yadav.

The Congress is in a spot because 47 of its MLAs hail from the Telengana region, where the demand for a separate state has led to the emergence of the Telengana Rashtra Samiti. Its Telengana MLAs have sought to ally with the Samiti, saying the alliance could rout the Desam-BJP combine in the region.

But the Congress is unwilling to do so, fearing that MLAs from Rayalseema and coastal regions might join the Desam in protest.

The BJP is in a similar dilemma. Party sources concede that its base in the region could be eroded thanks to its alliance with the Desam. “But for better or for worse, our state unit feels we should remain wedded to the Telugu Desam Party,” a BJP functionary said.

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