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Praja Rajyam merges with Congress

J. Balaji

NEW DELHI: Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, who with much fanfare launched the Praja Rajyam Party on August 26, in 2008, as “an alternative to the Congress and Telugu Desam Party” in Andhra Pradesh and “to protect the poor, uphold social justice and fight corruption”, on Sunday did a volte-face and announced the party's merger with the Congress “without any pre-condition nor selfish motive.”

A staunch supporter of united Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chiranjeevi also announced, after meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi here for over 30 minutes, that the PR, which had 18 MLAs in the AP Assembly, would not join the Congress government led by Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy. Belonging to the Kapu community and hailing from West Godavari district, Mr. Chiranjeevi currently represents Tirupati.

Social justice plank

After meeting Ms. Gandhi, the actor, who was projected by the media as another N.T. Rama Rao to revolutionise the State's politics, told journalists that the merger decision was taken keeping in mind the “best interests” of the people of Andhra Pradesh as the PR and Congress had fought for social justice.

The Law and Justice Minister and in-charge of Congress affairs in AP, M. Veerappa Moily, who was present at the meeting along with Defence Minister and senior Congress leader A.K. Antony (who brokered the merger by holding talks with Mr. Chiranjeevi in Hyderbad on Monday last) said: “Mr. Chiranjeevi has now become a member of the Congress family. I am quite happy.”

Asked whether the move to bring the actor into the Congress fold was to counter the threat posed by former Congress MP from Kadapa, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who claimed the support of at least 25 Congress MLAs and two MLAs each from the TDP and the PRP, Mr. Moily shot back: “We are not against anybody. The move is just to strengthen the Congress.” Political pundits see Mr. Chiranjeevi's decision to merge his outfit with the Congress as an opportunity to get “mutual benefit.”

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