By Ramesh Reddy | Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh minister D. Sridhar Babu, who was divested of the crucial Legislative Affairs ministry, on New Year's eve by Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, has quit the state cabinet. Though Kiran Reddy insisted that it is his prerogative to shuffle the portfolios of ministers, Sridhar Babu and other ministers from the Telangana have not taken it lightly.
Sridhar Babu sent in his resignation to the chief minister on Thursday night after consulting his followers. Some ministers from Telangana led by K. Jana Reddy complained to the state governor E.S.L. Narasimhan that it was a conspiracy by the chief minister to stall the formation of Telangana state.
The chief minister's decision was announced just two days before the state legislature resumes its specially convened winter session to discuss the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill from Friday.
Sridhar Babu's Cabinet colleagues from Telangana complained to senior Congress leaders in Delhi that the chief minister's decision in divesting him of the portfolio and putting him in charge of Commercial Taxes, till January 1 held by the chief minister, was only to give an opponent of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, S. Sailajanath additional charge of Legislative Affairs.
The AICC secretary in charge of state affairs, R.C. Kunthia, who was in Hyderabad tried to placate the peeved Telangana ministers but they argued that the chief minister's move was a calculated one and insinuating to the separatists. Several ministers and party leaders from Telangana met Kunthia and complained against the 'undemocratic' action" of the chief minister. Congress leaders in Karimnagar district, Sridhar Babu's home district, enforced a shutdown on New Year's Day while Brahmins in contiguous Warangal district led by some temple priests burnt an effigy on Wednesday.
Ironically, Sridhar Babu was one of the most trusted lieutenants of the chief minister ever since they worked together as government whip and chief whip respectively between 2004 and 2009. Now, Sridhar Babu's exit is likely to intensify into a bitter battle and possibly stall the state reorganization bill discussion scheduled to begin on Friday.