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TRS ‘no’ to Cong tie-up

Hyderabad, March 15: The Telangana Rashtra Samiti today ruled out an alliance with the Congress, striking the national party a fresh blow 12 days after refusing to merge with it as promised earlier.

As he announced the decision, Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao accused the Congress of backstabbing his party by trying to lure away its legislators and its partners in the statehood agitation.

“They wanted a merger but kept picking up our MLAs and MPs. They wanted an alliance but advised Telangana student groups and activists to join the Congress, even offering them seats,” he said.

The Congress has poached one MLA and one MP from Rao but has lost several MLAs, MPs and ministers to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and is likely to lose more. In further bad news for the party, there’s now a possibility of Rao tying up with the BJP.

Rao’s decision comes on the back of pollsters predicting that his party might win 11 of the 17 parliamentary seats in Telangana, and at least 74 of its 119 Assembly seats, with a vote share of 42 per cent.

Damodar Rajnarasimha, head of the Congress’s campaign committee for Telangana, acknowledged that his party would now struggle to prevent an exodus to Rao’s.

As he put it: “Only if Priyanka Gandhi is brought in as Congress candidate for the Medak parliamentary seat (once held by Indira Gandhi) can the Congress survive in the region.”

The surveys have given the Congress five Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, with the other seat going to possible ally Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

State Congress leader Ponnala Lakshmaiah alleged that Rao’s decision stemmed from the Congress’s refusal to promise him the Telangana chief minister’s post.

But Rao’s colleague Shravan Dasoji said: “Why should we fight under a Congress banner after our 13-year struggle bore fruit and Telangana was achieved?”

The alliance situation in Telangana is now extremely fluid. The Telugu Desam has been talking to the BJP, while the MIM is in negotiations with the Congress.

But the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which has a tie-up with the CPI, too has opened channels with the MIM. If the MIM goes over to the Congress, however, the BJP may consider snubbing the Desam to ally with Rao.

The Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the Telangana region will be held on April 30. Seemandhra votes on May 7. The two Assemblies are likely to be formed after the new state comes into being on June 2.

Congress leaders had accused Rao of “cheating” when he went back on his pledge for a merger despite their party meeting his condition of statehood for Telangana. Rao today hurled back the charge of betrayal.

“I have not cheated anyone. We would have merged had there been fair play by the Congress,” he said after a party meeting.