By T S Sudhir
As Kiran Kumar Reddy and the assortment of four ex-Congress MPs and a former state minister joined hands and raised them in the air, one couldn’t help thinking – “How Third Frontish”. After all, this `Hands Up’ style is patented by the group of the Lefties, the Mulayams and the Deve Gowdas that comes together once every five years, driven by the common ambition to put their hand up to become the next prime minister of India.
Kiran Reddy is also the Third Front in the new divided state of Andhra Pradesh, determined to stop the Jaganmohan Reddy juggernaut and the Chandrababu Naidu bicycle in their tracks. Given that the Congress fort is in shambles and certain to lose its deposit in a majority of the 175 assembly and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies, the three men from Rayalaseema will be in the race for the top job at the temporary Andhra Pradesh secretariat within the municipal limits in common capital Hyderabad.
“I do not get into anything without doing my homework. If I have waited so long, it is obvious that I have done my homework well,” says Reddy. Reminds you of that student in your class who would try to psychologically deflate you on the eve of an exam by telling you that he is better prepared than you and how you have missed out on critical portions in the syllabus. Kiran’s new party already seems to have had that effect on an already on-the-edge Naidu, who tweeted : “Dirty game of floating parties before elections to divide anti Congress vote in “ON”. Voters see the game, as PRP merger is fresh in minds.” Naidu, who blames Chiranjeevi for his loss in 2009, is clearly wary of Kiran emulating the Megastar and helping Jagan in the bargain.
But on paper, Naidu may actually gain this time around. Because both Jagan and Kiran may appeal to the same Congress constituency and by splitting it, may help the TDP cause.
“Politics is not arithmetic,” explains Reddy. “Why do you think I will take votes only from Jagan and not from Naidu?” Reddy’s argument is that caste equations will not play a role this time and people will vote for the politicians they think tried their best to keep Andhra Pradesh united.
Reddy’s strategy is take a leaf out of Arvind Kejriwal’s book. His party which will be formally unveiled in Rajahmundry on March 12 at 4 pm, will field an assortment of new candidates, the bulk of who will be those who took part in the united Andhra Pradesh agitation post the Congress decision to bifurcate on July 30 last year. Reddy’s calculation is that the 8 lakh odd government employees and their extended families, who are aggrieved over the division will back his political outfit, instead of Jagan and Naidu, who he accuses of tacitly supporting the bifurcation.
“I am starting this party only so that voters do not have to use the NOTA option,” says Reddy. What he does not tell you is that if it was not for the pressure mounted by the six expelled MPs, who desperately have been looking for a symbol to contest on, Reddy would have been keep the decision pending. Unlike Purandareswari, who has been embraced by the BJP, these MPs have not found takers from other parties to their applications.
Reddy is not looking at contesting the municipal elections to 146 municipalities and ten corporations on March 30, preferring to keep powder dry for the elections in Andhra Pradesh on May 7. He has exactly 60 days starting today to unleash himself in a new avatar to the public. He has borrowed a leaf out of the late N T Rama Rao’s book, talking of `Telugu self-respect’ and hopes it would be good enough to give his new party on the block a majority. As things stand now, that may be wishful thinking as in the public mind, Reddy and his group come across as politicians who only flattered to deceive. Till the last day, they made everyone in Seemandhra believe that they would be able to stall the bifurcation process by hook or by crook. In the end, Reddy had to lay down his arms, exiting both as chief minister and from the Congress party. One would think he can at best hope to get a few seats, hope for a fractured mandate and then bargain with the party that needs those extra numbers.
Andhra Pradesh, already hurt by the division, needs an able administrator to not only apply the healing touch but also work towards developing the 13 districts, now that Hyderabad has been lost. An uncertain mandate and a khichdi government will do its cause no good.