Hyderabad/New Delhi, July 4: The eternal bridesmaid in the central coalition, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), today sent a jolt of a reminder to the Congress but failed to foresee a scene-stealer in its own ranks.
The Andhra Pradesh ally asked its six ministers to resign from the Congress-led state government, citing differences over the creation of a Telengana state and the strategy to fight Naxalites.
Only five ministers complied. The sixth fired a repartee that all in power would like to toss at their political masters but rarely do: resign first, minister S. Santosh Reddy told his party chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, a Union minister.
This is not the first time it has rained on Rao’s parade. After his alliance with the Congress swept N. Chandrababu Naidu out of power in one of the biggest electoral upsets in India, Rao had to serve the Union government for several months as a minister without portfolio because the berth meant for him was gifted to appease a more vocal DMK.
Rao was finally given the labour ministry but the Congress did little to carve Telengana ' Rao’s sole political plank ' out of Andhra other than making a sympathetic statement in the common minimum programme. Rao’s party has started to feel the heat on the ground with actor-turned-politician Vijayashanti, known as Lady Amitabh for her action-packed roles, wading in to champion the statehood cause.
The threat by Naxalites to kill Telengana politicians if they do not pull out also seems to have forced Rao’s hand. Some of his party colleagues have been killed recently.
Sources said the sudden resignation of the ministers from the Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy government is more a protest against the chief minister’s “dismissive attitude” than an expression of disenchantment with the Centre.
Rao is understood to have conveyed this to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he met him here late this evening.
Rao told the Prime Minister that his party did not intend to pull out of the United Progressive Alliance government as the complaint at the moment was only against the chief minister. The TRS has two representatives in the UPA ministry ' the other being minister of state for rural development A. Narendra.
Rao has drawn a distinction between the Rajasekhar Reddy government and the Manmohan Singh government. TRS has five MPs.
An unfazed chief minister, who has a comfortable majority in the House, left on a tour of Israel and the UAE today.
Rao is expected to convey his party’s anger and list the complaints against Reddy to UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi when he meets her tomorrow.
Sonia, soon after returning from her day-long visit to Gujarat, called senior party leader from Andhra and information and broadcasting minister S. Jaipal Reddy for a briefing.
The TRS chief has complained that even while the Congress central leadership exercised caution each time it spoke about Telengana, the Andhra chief minister kept dismissing the demand. Second, though part of the state government, the TRS had been virtually sidelined by the chief minister over the last year. “We had joined the state ministry only after Sonia made three requests to us. But we were treated as outsiders by the chief minister,” said a TRS leader.
Third, Rao had recently asked for additional security for TRS ministers and district leaders while they travel in Telengana districts in view of the Naxalite threat.
As recently as five days ago, the Union home ministry is understood to have sent an advisory to the state government to provide additional security to TRS leaders. But the chief minister did not act on the advice, TRS leaders said. This was the last straw that prompted the pullout.