OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

Saturday’s police firing incident in Mudigonda, Khammam that claimed eight lives continued to provide ammunition for the Opposition’s attack on the government. The Telugu Desam Party, the BJP and the UPA’s Left allies stepped up their demand for Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy’s removal over the incident. The HT reports that while the Congress rallied behind Reddy publicly, privately its leaders said the controversies around the chief minister were denting the party’s image. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for the state on Monday night to review investment and agriculture projects there. Before that, he spoke to Reddy and expressed regret to the families of the firing incident victims. The Prime Minister’s words of regret did not satisfy the opposition Telugu Desam, its president N. Chandrababu Naidu said they will fast in protest at Indira Park on Tuesday, to coincide with Dr Singh’s visit. The meanwhile CPM blamed the state Congress unit for spreading “misinformation” about the firing incident. V Srinivasa Rao, member of the CPM Central Committee, denied that party cadres had turned violent and had not attacked the area police station.

Meanwhile Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was quick to point out the parallels to Nandigram demanding compensation to the victims. It must be noted that while the Left Front government has not offered any compensation or even reprimanded the police officers concerned the Andhra Pradesh government had transferred the police chief of the district and suspended the additional superintendent over the firing and ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of each of the six villagers shot dead by the police.

 The Left parties have been running a ‘Bhu Poratam’ (Struggle for Land) campaign since May 6 in Andhra Pradesh. According to the HT over 35,000 people have participated in the agitation, taking ‘possession’ of over 70,000 acres of land. The police have registered 16,000 cases against the agitators. With the violent turn of events the it was left once again to the Nonagenarian Jyoti Basu to deliver the CPI-M doublespeak. Basu sitting in Kolkota saw no parallels between Nandigram and Khammam.

For all its twisted logic and doublespeak, the CPI-M had to face some tough words from The Telegraph which in a stinging editorial said what was politically correct in Nandigram could not become something very different Khammam just because the dead protestors were CPM cadre. But it was the closing remarks that are ominous for the UPA’s future.

The Left may have its Marxian illusions about the value of dialectics. But confused friends can be worse than enemies for the UPA government.

So the political question of the day is how far will Karat and Yechury push the Congress on Mudigonda ?

Will they make it about withdrawing support to the UPA or the Chief Minister’s head ?

When Singur happened and Mamata took matters to the brink Offstumped posed the question if this was the wedge issue that would eventually unravel the UPA-Left axis of evil. Singur followed by Nandigram have seen the CPM facing political heat from Hard Left ideologues and Naxal sympathetic groups in Bengal. The cold calculation in the CPM is likely to be that the events in Mudigonda present the CPM with an excellent opportunity to energize the cadre and appease the intellectuals by staking out a hard left position on the land issue in AP by demanding the CM’s dismissal. Remember it is not too often that the Left is handed an issue as emotive as its cadre killed by police in political action. It is also inconceivable that the Left would let this one go by. Andhra is the only major state outside of Bengal and Kerala where it once had a base and is a force to reckon with in present times.

The Congress may not have too many cards to play here having backed Buddhadeb on Singur and Nandigram in the past.

So how far is Sonia Gandhi willing to go in appeasing the CPI-M ?

Shuffling Congress CM’s in Andhra is an old game Sonia’s Mother-In-Law had perfect two decades ago which her husband dutifully continued. Over the last 3 decades the Congress in Andhra has seen as many as 6 different Chief Ministers from Chenna Reddy, Anjiah, Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy, Bhavanam Venkatram, N. Janardhan Reddy. The incumbent Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy was the perennial dissident who finally had responsibility thrust on him to take on Chandrababu Naidu. YSR got second time lucky to deliver a landslide to the Congress in 2004. Remember Andhra and Maharashtra were the only two big states in 2004 that went solidly Congress to see it end up the single largest party marginally ahead of the BJP. The sweep in Andhra was complete with total rout of the TDP. It would be suicidal for the Congress to shoot itself in the foot by giving in to the CPM and sacrificing YSR.

If history is anything to go by a YSR outside the government can do far more damage to the Congress than a YSR inside the government.

So is Sonia Gandhi really prepared to sacrifice Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy to preserve the UPA Government ?

Offstumped Bottomline: It appears Sonia Gandhi is faced with Hobson’s Choice on Andhra. To give in to the Left’s demand on YSR would be suicidal with the prospect of facing the 2009 elections with a divided party and a diminished track record. To not give in could mean the threat of withdrawal of support.

But then a third scenario could play out if Sonia Gandhi decides to call the Left’s bluff by digging her heels and not relenting on the YSR issue.

Is the Left really prepared to bring down the Government or is it merely content with pretending to do so ?

Is the fear of the BJP a far more overriding political consideration than the spilt blood  of its cadre ?

The Left’s role reversal from Nandigram to Khammam has the potential to either propel the Congress down a suicidal path or alternatively it has the potential to call the Left’s bluff and expose the contradictions in its agenda.



Either way it will be a test of Sonia’s Political Skills.

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