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If YSR was alive, he wouldn’t let Jagan leave Congress, says K.V.P. Ramchandra Rao

A file photo of K.V.P. Ramchandra Rao, the Congress MP from Rajya Sabha and close aide of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Photo: HT

Hyderabad: Ever since the Union budget was announced this month, political parties in Andhra Pradesh (AP) have been protesting against the centre for non-allocation of promised funds, with the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) even threatening to break its alliance with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the main opposition YSR Congress Party demanding special category status (SCS) for AP.

However, though the issue only gained traction over the last few weeks, K.V.P. Ramchandra Rao, the Congress MP from Rajya Sabha and close aide of former AP chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in 2009 in a helicopter crash, has been raising the issue in Parliament ever since the state was bifurcated in 2014, often going into the well of the Rajya Sabha with placards seeking “justice” for his state.

Known to be Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s best friend and the second-most powerful person after him during his tenure from 2004 to 2009, Rao said he has been demanding that AP gets its due since the state was bifurcated and not recently.

“I have raised this issue in all possible forms and even moved a private member’s bill for special category status to AP in 2016 in the Rajya Sabha. Prior to that, then AICC president Sonia Gandhi had written a letter in 2014 (post the general elections) to the prime minister to fulfil the promises made to AP,” said Rao, in an interview with Mint.

The Congress MP blamed the TDP for “compromising” with the centre on SCS and accepting the special assistance package for AP instead in 2016. “It was (AP chief minister N. Chandrababu) Naidu’s weakness. After that, he even felicitated Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in AP and wholeheartedly welcomed the assistance package,” he said.

Being someone close to Reddy during his tenure (in the then erstwhile state of AP), one would have perhaps expected Rao to join the former’s son Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), but it did not happen.

“In my opinion and with all my understanding, he (Rajasekhara Reddy) would never have let his son leave the Congress to form another party had he been alive. He had great commitment to Rajiv Gandhi, who made him the state Congress unit’s president at the age of 34 in 1984, and his family,” Rao said, adding that he will remain in the Congress, which he joined nearly half a century ago.

On the given current political scenario in AP, Rao said Naidu will come out of the NDA fold, based on the recent assembly election and bypoll results in Gujarat and Rajasthan. “Naidu has clarity about it. He is like a rat on a ship which knows first before it sinks,” he added.

Leo Augustine, civil rights lawyer and former general secretary of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, said that for someone like Rao, leaving the Congress now when it is being seen as an alternative to the BJP will not be a good move. “He was the right-hand man of YSR and Jagan broke his dominance also. K.V.P. himself used to look after all the ticket distribution back then,” he said, adding that though the Congress in AP has suffered electorally post bifurcation, one cannot write it off.

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