THE merger of Telugu superstar K. Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with the ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh is indeed a marriage of convenience. The exit of YSR’s son and the open rebellion by a section of legislators had left no choice before Congress but to hasten the merger-process. The death of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, attempts by his son Jagan Mohan Reddy to poach PRP legislators, and Chiranjeevi’s own inability to provide leadership to keep afloat a small party in the face of pulls and pressures him look for alternatives so much so that when Sonia aide Defence Minister Mr A.K. Antony reached Hyderabad with the proposal, it was too tempting for him to resist. He was in fact looking for a way out and choose to wind up the shop.
The Rising Sun, party’s symbol, never really generated the heat and light it was expected to, making it easier for Sonia Gandhi’s to acquire it. Failure to put in place an organisational structure, the undue influence of actor’s family on the party, selection of candidates for pecuniary gains and his inability to convey to the people what he intends to deliver all combined to ensure the biggest flop of his party at the electoral box office in May 2009.
The party mainly consisted of deserters from other parties like TDP and Congress all seeking a place under the Sun hoping the Megastar as he is called to deliver a political super hit. Some overenthusiastic media men too joined the chorus and dubbed him as a “would be the Barack Obama of Andhra Pradesh”. But that is where it ended. Eighteen per cent of the vote and 18 MLAs in the 294-member house and he himself lost in one seat out of the two seats he contested .After failing to come to power, Chiranjeevi, too, was looking for a face-saving gesture. The actor did also said “he endorsed the decision to merge to work together with the Congress to achieve its objective of social justice.” Many were equally amused with the other statement that Congress had indeed taken steps to stem the rot of corruption in the recent times. He emphasized that the Government led by late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was too corrupt.
The merger of the PRP will provide some breather to the Congress, worried over the threat posed to its survival by former MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. With 155 legislators, the Congress enjoys a slender majority in the assembly and has been under threat ever since Jagan, as the MP is popularly known; quit the party in November last year accusing the leadership of dividing his family. The young leader, who enjoys the backing of two dozen legislators of Congress party, had been taunting the ruling party that the government is at its mercy.
What hastened the merger was also the fact that Jagan was poaching on party legislators of Praja Rajyam Party including many from the Kapu Community, are unhappy with Chiranjeevi. Jagan’s camp has also described the merger as its moral victory. Ambati Rambabu, a close aide of Jagan, described Congress as a sinking ship. The Congress itself is facing criticism from Telangana protagonists, who see the merger as a conspiracy to weaken the movement for a separate Telangana state. Since Chiranjeevi is against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and other parties have accused the Congress of going back on its promise to deliver Telangana.
Congress needs all PRP legislators to lend credibility to the Kiran kumar government .In the event of state bifurcation it needs the popularity of Chiranjeevi in the Coastal Andhra to beat the challenges of Chandra Babu Naidu. The other factor is the support of seven MIM legislators from the old city of Hyderabad.
A merger would mean effectively locking the doors from within for potential defectors to Jagan camp with in the PRP, as no legislator can challenge it and disqualified if he dared. Thus even if it is against their will they are bound to support Congress on the floor of the Assembly, anti defection law being what it is. The dynamics of state politics are complex, but are inevitable as status and interests change with each day and voters remain silent spectators wondering at the very deception and politics of sheer opportunisms.