Congress leaders from Andhra Pradesh are finding it easy to access party president Sonia Gandhi, leading to speculation that the Chief Minister in the state may be staring at a premature end to his term.
Actor-politician Chiranjeevi, who merged his party with the Congress recently, met with Mrs Gandhi at 4 pm. A senior leader from the Rayalaseema district, J.C.Diwakar Reddy was next. As many as nine ministers from the Andhra Pradesh cabinet are also positioned in Delhi. Officially, they're here to coordinate efforts to ensure Congressman Pranab Mukherjee gets the votes of all the party's MPs and state legislators in the election for President of India, scheduled for July 19.
But sources say they're keen to push for the exit of Kiran Kumar Reddy or at least ensure their own fortunes don't suffer if he is forced to quit as Chief Minister. There appear to be three camps within the Congress: one that's loyal to the Chief Minister, another that's leaning towards Chiranjeevi as leader, and a third that takes its cue from Botsa Satyanarayana, who heads the state branch of the Congress. Chiranjeevi refused after his meeting with Mrs Gandhi to comment on whether he's angling to be made Chief Minister or even a Union Minister - in the last two days two senior Congressmen from Andhra Pradesh have publicly shared that they're willing to work under his leadership.
In recent by-elections held in the state, the Congress won just two of the 18 Assembly seats that were at stake. It lost the Lok Sabha seat from Nellore. The big winner was Jagan Mohan Reddy and his YSR Congress, the party he founded in memory of his father, who was among the Congress' most popular leaders in the south.
Jagan's split from the Congress has cost the party heavily. His success in the elections could persuade many from his former party to defect to his side, a reason why the party's biggest leaders may be making time to meet local leaders and representatives.
One minister who met Mrs Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders said there was little real information shared about Delhi's plans for the state's leadership. "The usual questions were asked on the Congress performance in the recent byelections, why Jagan is doing well, what is the status of Telangana and so on. They ask, we talk, they listen. But nothing more of it.''
There's talk of whether, after the Presidential election, the Congress in Delhi will finally take a stand on the volatile issue of whether to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh to create a state for Telangana -a prospect that has caused violence among both Telangana activists and the other two regions of coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema. In the recent byelections in Parkal in Warangal district of Telangana, the YSR Congress candidate did not fare too bad even though the TRS won the seat. That has also led to a need to reassess the ground situation and mood.
Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan met Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday but claimed did not submit a political report on Andhra Pradesh. He has, however, held meetings with different political leaders from Andhra Pradesh in Delhi, which has led to speculation that he is assessing local and political sentiment about granting state status to Telangana. In December 2009, Home Minister P Chidambaram had in a surprise move announced that the centre would initiate the process of creating a Telangana state. Weeks of violence forced that a suspension of that decision. Since then, the matter has remained unresolved.