The Rebel

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As the debate over Telangana rages, the Andhra Chief Minister is gearing up for battle
The time has come to bite the bullet for Andhra Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy. Well, almost. As the state assembly reverberates with the Telangana statehood debate, political observers are keenly watching the next move of this cricketer-turned-Chief-Minister who is expected to launch a new party once the current Assembly session ends on 23 January. If he does indeed go ahead and form a new party, he would join his bête noire Jaganmohan Reddy, who did this a couple of years ago with his YSR Congress, breaking free of the mother party and challenging it, no-holds-barred.

The wait for the final outcome of the Telangana Reorganisation Bill debate may get extended by a week, at the time of writing, as the current Government has requested the President to grant it such an extension to debate the Bill. Even if the extension comes through, this will only enable the integrationists to posture even more aggressively to safeguard their respective political spaces and voter support bases. As of now, no one doubts that Sonia Gandhi will go back on her announcement to create a separate Telangana.

It is interesting to look up Kiran Reddy’s political track record over these past four years. Actually, none gave him an outside chance of survival when he was sworn in as the 16th Chief Minister of the state on 25 November 2010 as, at the ground level, Telangana statehood was a raging fire all across the region. From then on, he has survived dissidence, defiance and detractors who refused to see him as a leader occupying the top slot for more than three years now.

Reddy, who was the unanimous choice for the Speaker’s post after the UPA’s return in 2009, has shown how lightweights can rattle the Delhi Durbar much more than experienced netas. In this regard, political observers point out how his seniors like PV Narasimha Rao have done it with panache; Rao was Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh during the tumultuous Naxalite era of 1971-73.

Over the past two decades, the Congress party has come to power only in intermittent phases when it has pipped the Telugu Desam Party. A scrutiny of the ‘Reddy Reckoner’ of state Congress politics reveals that Kiran finds place much above fellow Rayalaseema politician and party veteran, Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy. The latter managed two stints as Chief Minister for a total of 905 days (around two-and-a-half years) over 1982-1994. Kiran Reddy’s political mentor Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) lorded over the state for nearly five-and-a-half years from May 2004 to September 2009.

Even as the Telangana region has been baying for his blood since the 30 July statehood declaration, when he openly declared his intention to keep the state united, Kiran Reddy has encouraged all manner of speculation about his future moves. His calculated steps have been to defy and deny state observers any inkling of his plans, and he has surprisingly managed to portray the image of a strong leader. The current kite-flying about the new party being launched by him is yet another example of this.