The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress ponders Telengana tie-up

New Delhi, Nov. 13: With Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu ringing the bell for early polls, the Congress is mulling an electoral alliance with the fledging Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).

State Congress president D. Srinivas, general secretary Gauri Shanker and spokesperson D. Vittal Rao are understood to have conveyed to party chief Sonia Gandhi their preference for a tie-up with the Samiti.

The leaders, who arrived here on Tuesday on summons from the high command, met Sonia this morning. Over the last two days, they had three rounds of preliminary talks with working committee member Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also in charge of the state’s affairs.

Headed by former Telugu Desam Party legislator K. Chandrasekhar Rao, the Samiti has been spearheading the campaign for a separate Telengana state.

Although the party is yet to give a test of strength, Chandrasekhar Rao has vowed to enter the poll arena to show the popularity of the party and the cause.

Sections within the Congress favouring a tie-up with the Samiti believe this could give the party an edge over the Desam. “At present, the situation on the ground is fifty-five between the Congress and (the) TDP,” said a leader favouring the alliance.

Spread over nine districts, the Telengana region accounts for 107 of the 294 seats in the Assembly, of which the Congress had won only 41 in 1999.

While some sections are enthusiastic about a tie-up, almost the entire Andhra Congress leadership agrees that the presence of a new party in the fray would hurt the Congress more than the Desam. More so if the Desam persists with an alliance with the BJP, which, party leaders believe, is almost certain.

The state party leaders are also wary of the Samiti leading a third front — about which Chandrasekhar Rao had dropped hints earlier this year.

Pro-alliance sections have argued that courting the Samiti could help the party defer a decision on Telengana. Congress leaders from the region have demanded that the party endorse the creation of a separate Telengana state, to which the high command had promised a decision after the Assembly polls.

“Beyond a point, clarity does not help. We will continue to indulge in obfuscation,” a Congress leader said about the party’s stand on the demand. The lack of clarity would also go down well with voters in Rayalseema and coastal Andhra, who oppose a separate state, he pointed out.

Sections favouring the tie-up are hopeful that the Samiti, too, would warm up to the idea of an alliance with the Congress even if the party remained ambivalent on the Telengana issue.

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