| TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao with his grandson at the dharna in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Aug. 23: Fighting a two-pronged battle — against the Congress’s “betrayal” and the move within his party to edge him out — Telengana Rashtra Samiti chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao today began an indefinite hunger strike.
Sources said the TRS chief’s announcement last night of quitting the UPA — and not just the Manmohan Singh government — because the Centre did not give him any assurance on statehood for Telengana, indicated that his deputy A. Narendra was calling the shots in his party.
Rao wanted to withdraw from the Union cabinet, not the UPA, while Narendra has been keen on joining hands with the BJP, the sources said, adding that the issue was finally settled when the two held a closed-door meeting that lasted nearly three hours.
According to the sources, Narendra’s clout has grown because of his ability to convince a good section of the TRS that Rao is no longer as firm on the demand for Telengana as he used to be when the party was born.
Rao took the hunger strike route not only to put pressure on the UPA government but also to convince his own party leaders about his commitment to the Telengana cause.
“It doesn’t matter even if I lose my life. We will continue to fight for a separate Telengana,” Rao told reporters.
“It is my appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi not to ignore the demand of 3.5 crore people of the region,” he said.
“Sonia campaigned during the Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh wearing a pink dupatta (the colour of the TRS flag), but once the party won a majority, it (the Congress) ignored its allies.”
Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh visited Rao to express solidarity. “I fully support the demand for Telengana. It is a justified cause and the UPA should fulfil its commitment given to the TRS while forming the government two-and-a-half years ago,” he said.
However, Singh appealed to Rao to reconsider his decision to go on a fast, saying he should look after his health as he has to keep up the fight for Telengana.
As their boss sat on a fast, the four TRS MPs left in the House created a furore in the Lok Sabha.
Wearing identical white kurta-pyjama with fluorescent pink scarves, they shouted slogans demanding statehood for Telengana.
As soon as the House met this morning, the four were in the well chanting “Jai Telengana” and “Implement common minimum programme”.
“This is very unfortunate,” Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said. “You cannot hold the House to ransom.”
Chatterjee decided to carry on the question hour amid the TRS din. But BJP MPs complained they couldn’t hear anything.
After 25 minutes, Chatterjee adjourned the House till noon. Later, he urged Rao to call off his fast.
Parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi told the House that Rao’s resignation was “under active consideration” of the Prime Minister.