The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia sends for satrap

New Delhi, Feb. 11: The Congress high command has finally taken notice of the worsening crisis in Andhra Pradesh and has summoned state unit chief M. Satyanarayana Rao, against whom almost all top leaders have declared war.

Rao, who last visited the Congress headquarters nearly 10 months ago, will reach here on Thursday to meet party president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Vayalar Ravi.

Sources say the leadership, by summoning Rao, has virtually set in motion the process of finding a replacement. However, while confirming Rao’s arrival, Ravi declined to be drawn into questions about a possible change of guard, though he acknowledged that things were not all right in Andhra.

Rao is sure to face uncomfortable questions when he meets Sonia and Ravi. The AICC general secretary has already written to him, asking for an explanation on serious complaints against him by several senior state leaders. Among those who have complained against Rao are former Union minister P. Shiv Shankar, legislature party leader Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and working committee member Sarojini Pulla Reddy.

Shiv Shankar had written to Sonia 10 days ago seeking an inquiry into “certain unwarranted and baseless allegations” against him by Rao. He went to the extent of asking her permission to “take defamatory legal action (both criminal and civil) against” the PCC chief.

Sources say Sonia has taken Shiv Shankar’s complaint seriously and has expressed her “displeasure”. She is believed to have directed Ravi to seek an explanation from Rao.

Despite its annoyance, sources say the high command does not have an easy solution to offer. While it is convinced of the need to replace Rao, top state leaders are divided on the choice of a successor.

With the Assembly elections due next year, Rajasekhara Reddy — who has been twice APCC president — is said to be keen to resume charge by quitting as CLP leader. But there is strong opposition from other contenders like N. Janardhana Reddy and N. Bhaskara Rao, both former chief ministers.

Ravi, who is also in charge of the party’s affairs in Maharashtra, remained evasive on the appointment of a new president.

But he indicated that Ranjit Deshmukh, widely tipped to take over from Govindrao Adik, may no longer be an automatic choice. “His (Deshmukh) name is also very much under consideration,” is how Ravi put it. Deshmukh had stayed out from new chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s ministry in the hope that he would take over from Adik, who resigned and joined the ministry.

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