M A I N   N E W S

Cong sweeps Andhra
Gets two-third majority
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Congress activists celebrate the victory of their party in the Andhra Assembly elections outside the residence of Sonia Gandhi
Congress activists celebrate the victory of their party in the Andhra Assembly elections outside the residence of Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI photo

Hyderabad, May 11
The man who was considered invincible till the other day has been humbled. Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the most visible and high profile Chief Minister the country has had in the recent past, had to bite the dust after nine years of glory. His Telugu Desam Party has been reduced to less than one-thirds of what it was in 1999.

It’s sweet revenge for the Congress, a party that valiantly pulled itself out of near extinction, to achieve two-thirds majority —188 in the House of 294 — on its own in a massive swing against the ruling party. Its ally Telangana Rashtra Samithi, making its debut in these elections, won 26 out of 42 seats it contested, while the almost non-existent Left parties made huge gains by scoring 15 seats.

“We worked hard and tried to make AP a model state. But people seem to have wanted a change. We will have to analyse this mandate,” a dazed Naidu, who submitted his resignation to the Governor, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, later admitted.

The Congress Legislature Party will meet on Wednesday to elect its leader. The former CLP leader and the most popular face of the party in the state Dr Y Rajasekhara Reddy, who led the party from the front during the campaign, is ahead in the race for the Chief Minister’s post. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil and party in charge of Andhra Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad will be the party observers from Delhi to oversee the election.

The landslide for the Congress and its allies is more an indication of the anger of the Andhra voter against the TDP government. With just 47 in its tally, it is the worst ever performance of the TDP since its inception in 1982. No wonder, the BJP paid its price for aligning with the wrong partner at the wrong time. It has been reduced to two seats from 12 it had in the dissolved Assembly.

The extent of anti-incumbency is evident from the fact that a majority of senior TDP ministers such as the highly respected P Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who had never lost an election since 1978, had to give way to hitherto unknown candidates. For the first time, TDP was completely decimated in some districts like Nizamabad, Khammam, Medak and Nellore.

The Congress scored stunning victories across regions. As expected, the Congress-TRS combine worked wonders in Telangana, where it secured 74 seats leaving TDP with just 11. But it is coastal Andhra, a traditional TDP bastion, that sprang a surprise by giving Congress a massive 102, reducing TDP to just 22 seats, while in Rayalaseema, TDP fared marginally better securing 14 seats, leaving the Congress with a lion’s share of 38 seats.

The perceived sympathy wave for TDP in the backdrop of the assassination attempt against Naidu did not materialise, nor was the party’s gambit of going for early elections. The party’s attempt to alienate Congress-TRS among the coastal Andhra voters by dubbing the opposition party as “divisive” also did not seem to cut much ice with the electorate.

Congress was largely helped by the anti-incumbency wave that swept across the state.




Rattled, NDA asks George to rope in ‘samajwadis’
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Buoyed by its unprecedented and mind-boggling triumph of regaining power in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress wasted no time in trying to knit the secular forces under one platform to keep the BJP-led NDA out of power at the Centre.

Rattled and stung by the out-of-hand rejection in Andhra Pradesh, the BJP and its NDA partners have activated themselves and are working on various permutations and combinations aimed at crossing the magic arithmetic of 272 in the 543-member 14th Lok Sabha.

Sources said they are exploring all avenues as no party is untouchable for them.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee held a core group meeting over dinner at his residence this evening to assess the political situation and draw up the outline of the BJP’s strategy and contingency plans.

It was attended, among others by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu along with the laptop brigade of Union Minister Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan.

NDA convener and Union Defence Minister George Fernandes was also present. He is being given the crucial task of roping in “samajwadis” or former socialists.

Finding itself with a sudden spring under its feet, the Congress feels emboldened that if Andhra Pradesh is a sounding board and reflective, in some measure, of the prevailing mood among the masses in the country, then it has chances of occupying the seat of power at Raisina Hill in the Capital.

This is evident from Congress President Sonia Gandhi taking the initiative and calling on CPM stalwart Harkishen Singh Surjeet here this afternoon. Mr Surjeet alluded to forming a coalition government with the Congress in the vanguard because of its strength, along with working out differences with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

A shell-shocked BJP is worried about the possible outcome on the crucial counting day on Thursday with most exit polls alluding to a hung Parliament.

Significantly, Mr Fernandes held a one-to-one meeting with Mr Vajpayee earlier in the day. As the Prime Minister’s troubleshooter, Mr Fernan-des is bound to get cracking of utilising his good offices with the SP, the BSP, AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa and others.

There is consternation in BJP circles that if the Assembly results in Andhra Pradesh is any parameter, then the NDA’s number can be reduced steeply in the Lok Sabha.

Though the BJP is putting up a brave front, it has intense misgivings that the DMK-led Front in Tamil Nadu can also put a spanner in their works. It is apparent that the BJP concern is to retain its own strength of 182 in the dissolved 13th Lok Sabha.

With the TDP-BJP combine being summarily thrown out of the window in Andhra Pradesh, the saffron brigade’s central leadership has been stirred to put on its thinking cap in the critical game of arithmetic. It is toying with the idea of roping in the TRS with the promise of fulfilling their demand for a Telegana state.

Even as the two broad fronts led by the BJP and the Congress, respectively, are waiting with a bated breath for the outcome of the battle of the ballot on May 13, some hectic behind-the-scenes political manoeuvering is under way. 


Kalam consults Sorabjee

New Delhi, May 11
Ahead of Lok Sabha results and amid predictions of a hung Parliament, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today called Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee for consultations on the course that he may have to follow in case of a fractured verdict.

He is understood to have briefed him on the precedents followed in different situations by the President.

He is believed to have clarified the position on the queries posed by the President on the likely situations that could emerge. — PTI

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