When Andhra parliamentarians figured prominently in the recent Central cabinet reshuffle, the Congress seemed to have woken up at last to the importance of the state in the party’s larger scheme of retaining power at the Centre. But the bottom of the Congress game-plan already appears to have fallen off in Andhra Pradesh, where the party is unable to defend itself against the marauding influence of the YSR Congress. Of course, the last cannot be held directly responsible for the recent decision of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to walk out of the alliance with the Congress both at the Centre and the state. But without the attraction that this ambitious party holds out to all dissenters of the ruling party in the state, it is unlikely that politicians and political parties would have rocked the Congress boat with as much gusto as they do now. The MIM chief, Asaduddin Owaisi, in fact, has already indicated where his sympathies lie by striking the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, off his list of friends while counting in the YSR Congress chief, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Mr Owaisi’s grouse is clearly directed at the chief minister for having failed to secure minority interests in the face of the growing influence of the Hindu Right, particularly in Hyderabad, which is an MIM stronghold. He is peeved by the government’s decision to allow the construction of a canopy over a temple abutting the Charminar in violation of court orders apart from, what he believes, is the targeting of the minority community by the law-and-order machinery of the state.
Quite certainly, the MIM cannot afford to see its authority undermined in its pocket borough despite being a part of the government. But had he been more observant, Mr Owaisi would have also noticed how the non-committal attitude of the Central leadership, which, incidentally, retains his confidence, has hamstrung the functioning of the chief minister. With the party determined to play the caste and community card in order to stem the tide of desertions, Mr Reddy, much like his predecessor, has been left to his own devices. This has often translated into inaction and poor governance. The deteriorating communal situation in Hyderabad is a consequence of this as is the regular disruption of life on the pretext of the Telangana agitation. The MIM’s withdrawal and the looming threat of communal violence will further imperil the tenuous hold of Mr Reddy, and his party, on the state.