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Cong averts Andhra revolt

Hyderabad, Dec. 2: The one-day-old cabinet of chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy today averted a near-revolt by veteran ministers, with the party high command taking a tough stand on the dissidents.

The crisis had taken shape late last night, with many senior ministers from the previous cabinet threatening to resign, saying they had been downgraded to less important ministries.

However, all the ministers turned up at Kiran Reddy’s first cabinet meeting this afternoon except for Vatti Vasant Kumar, who went ahead with his quit threat but sent his resignation to the deputy Speaker instead of the chief minister.

Hours after the chief minister’s office released the list of portfolios yesterday, at least half-a-dozen veterans went into a huddle at a minister’s bungalow before calling the chief minister and threatening to quit. The issue was resolved after Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, spoke to Kiran Reddy and several of the disgruntled ministers.

Central leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Veerappa Moily spoke to the rebels separately and warned them not to take any hasty step. “Thank your stars that you have not been dropped from the cabinet in view of your negative performance under (the previous chief minister) Rosaiah,” Azad was quoted as telling one of the ministers.

The central leadership is believed to have taken serious note of a comment made last night by minister Botsa Satyanarayana, who apparently told Kiran Reddy over the phone: “The cabinet is not a private limited company (of yours).”

A minister in both the YSR and Rosaiah cabinets, Satyanarayana has been moved from panchayati raj to transport.

Vatti Vasant Kumar, shifted from rural development to tourism, announced this afternoon he would not continue in the ministry but remain a member of the Congress and the Assembly. In a media release, he said his family had been associated with the party for generations and he would meet Sonia and explain his decision to resign from the cabinet.

It is known that the chief minister, a first-time minister, wanted the veterans kept out of the cabinet or weakened. But an aide of a central Congress leader said the portfolio changes were based on the ministers’ performance.

Several newcomers have bagged plum portfolios. Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, younger brother of the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, has been given agriculture.

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