‘Andhra Pradesh by-elections a referendum on Telangana’

April 17th, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Hyderabad, April 17 (IANS) With the Election Commission announcing May 29 as the date for by-elections to four Lok Sabha and 18 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, major political parties are gearing up for what is described as the referendum on separate statehood for the Telangana region. All political parties, especially the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), whose en masse resignations caused the by-polls, are gearing up for what is being described as a “semi-final” before the next year’s polls.

Four Lok Sabha members and 16 legislators of the TRS quit last month to protest the delay on the part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to accord statehood to Telangana, which comprises 10 districts including Hyderabad.

Alleging that the Congress has betrayed people of Telangana by going back on its 2004 poll promise, the TRS took the issue to “people’s court” through en masse resignation.

By-polls to two seats were necessitated by the death of legislators of the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The stakes are high for all the major parties in view of the next year’s elections.

The ruling Congress will face a tough task because as the TRS and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, with whom it had an electoral alliance in 2004, would be pitted against it.

“The time has come to send a loud and clear message. It is time of reckoning for every Telanganite,” declared TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao after the Election Commission announced the polls schedule Wednesday. “Final victory will be ours.”

KCR, as the TRS chief is popularly known, hopes to repeat last year’s result in Karimnagar Lok Sabha constituency. Challenged by Congress leaders, he resigned but was re-elected with a huge margin of over 200,000 votes.

The TRS, which revived the decades old demand for separate Telanagana in 2000, had joined the Congress-led coalition governments in the state and at the centre after bagging 26 assembly and five Lok Sabha seats in the 2004 elections.

It, however, pulled out of the coalition government in the state in 2005. TRS MPs, KCR and A. Narendra, resigned as central ministers in 2006 to protest the delay in granting separate statehood to the region.

The TRS received a setback when 10 of its legislators staged a revolt against KCR in 2006.

The by-polls are also crucial for the main opposition TDP, whose chief N. Chandrababu Naidu has roped in actor sons and grandsons of party founder N.T. Rama Rao in his efforts to return to power.

The TDP, which could win 45 seats in the 294-member assembly in 2004, stuck to its stand against bifurcation of the state. But the party has formed a committee to look into the Telangana issue following pressure from some leaders.

The Congress, which has not taken a stand on Telangana, hopes that the “good work” it has done in the last four years would fetch them votes. While leaving the issue to party president Sonia Gandhi for a final decision, it will seek votes on the development plank.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had a disastrous election in 2004 along with its then ally the TDP, will contest the elections with a promise to deliver separate Telangana. The party won only two assembly seats in the last election.

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