nion minister S. Jaipal Reddy, who has been shifted from the petroleum ministry to science and technology (S&T) in the recent reshuffle is under pressure from his supporters back home in Telangana to quit and fight for the region's statehood. If he says yes, another stream of statehood agitation, parallel to the one launched by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) might take off soon. And, seven to eight Congress MPs might join him.
Several Congress ministers and MPs from the region are in touch with him since the last fortnight and he is listening to them. But being a seasoned politician with over four decades of public life, Jaipal Reddy, who belongs to the backward Mahabubnagar district in Telangana, is not a person who reveals his cards.
Nalgonda Congress MP Gutta Sukhender Reddy, who is also a relative of Jaipal Reddy, told The Sunday Guardian, "A majority of us (Congress MPs from Telangana) are of the view that Jaipal Reddy should not have been shunted to a lesser portfolio like S&T. His demotion sent a wrong signal to the party cadres."
Sukhender Reddy preferred not to talk about Jaipal Reddy's possible moves on the ground that he was not the right person to do so, but said that Congress MPs from Telangana were not comfortable that the high command was in no mood to concede a separate state in the near future.
"We are caught on a cleft stick, as people in our constituencies are vehemently demanding a separate state and the leadership is openly snubbing us for championing the cause. We have no illusions of winning the next elections on a Congress ticket, unless the Centre announces a road-map to the new state," Sukhender Reddy told this paper.
This is the argument that Sukhender Reddy and some other Congress MPs and senior leaders have put forth before Jaipal Reddy. When Jaipal Reddy dithered on openly backing them, an MP is learnt to have asked him, "When you do not have any respect left with the high command, what is the purpose of continuing in the Congress?" Jaipal Reddy is believed to have kept silent. Andhra Panchayat Raj Minister and Jaipal's close follower, K. Jana Reddy too is of the view that it is high time that the Union minister quit the Cabinet. According to this group, Jaipal Reddy should lead the Congress leaders from Telangana as most of them are battling for their political survival.
"We have lost all the 20 byelections held in the region in the last three years, so where can we go?" asked B. Bikshamaiah Goud, Congress MLA from Alair.
Surprisingly, a large number of other leaders like senior MLA Nagam Janardhan Reddy who quit TDP and formed Telangana Nagara Bheri, a non-party platform, too are open to the idea of working of under the leadership of Jaipal Reddy, if he comes forward. "Jaipal Reddy is a senior leader with greater following," Janardhan Reddy said.
Jaipal Reddy refused to comment on the reports of his leaving the Congress, miffed over being demoted in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. "I am a disciplined minister and all portfolios are equal to me," he told a group of media persons who called on him this week in Delhi. But the hectic political activity that is going on in his New Delhi residence points to a different picture.