Buoyed by the Karnataka verdict where the party grabbed power with an emphatic victory despite dissensions within during the run up to the poll, the Congress high command is toughening its stance against trouble-makers in Andhra Pradesh, which will go to polls next year.
Those in the line of fire are Home Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy and Roads and Buildings Minister Dharmana Prasad Rao as they figure in the CBI chargesheet in the Jagan Mohan Reddy assets case. Though the high command, particularly party chief Sonia Gandhi, appears keen on acting tough, it will be easier said than done.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who called on Sonia Gandhi on Friday, is understood to have appeared reluctant to drop the ministers. The chief minister reportedly said the ministers did no wrong when they signed orders, which benefited Jagan’s companies, because they were following the instructions of the then chief minister late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.
The party high command is not very sure what would be the fallout if the two ministers are sacked. It is a delicate situation, particularly at a time when Jagan Reddy is waiting for such an opportunity to invite them to come to his fold and thus weaken the government further.
The chief minister is understood to have suggested just a change of portfolio for Sabitha Reddy as it would be embarrassing for the government if the Home Minister deposed before a judge as an accused in a case.
As far as dissidence in the party was concerned, the high command is reportedly unhappy that despite efforts to enforce discipline in the party on several occasions in the past, groupism still ruled the roost.
Sonia is reported to have dwelt on the issue at length with Kiran Reddy and is understood to have asked him to contain it by not seeking action against those he does not see eye to eye with but instead being friends with them. The chief minister is often accused of riding roughshod over his Cabinet colleagues and not taking them into confidence before announcing any major initiatives for the benefit of the people.
The chief minister is understood to have told the party president that some ministers were attacking him out of spite. But it is anybody’s guess how much ice this argument cut with Sonia. “The party leadership summoned chief minister and PCC chief Botcha Satyanarayana who are at loggerheads to Delhi to enforce discipline in the government. Let us see what kind of a salutary impact this would have on them,” one Congress leader said.
But making Kiran Reddy bury the hatchet with his detractors is easier said than done since he has two major rival camps, one led by Botcha and the other by Endowments Minister C Ramachandraiah, who belongs to Union Minister Chiranjeevi’s block in the party. Then there are individual operators like his deputy Damodar Rajanarasimha and Health Minister DL Ravindra Reddy. The list is beginning to grow, the latest addition being Tourism Minister Vatti Vasanta Kumar.