By Faraz Ahmad
New Delhi : With suspected involvement of several Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) politicians in a people smuggling scandal, the party may have to wait a little longer to return to the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre.
The Congress, which leads the UPA, is reportedly sending feelers to TRS president and former labour minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao to merge his battered outfit with it if he is interested, according to well informed sources.
"Now that his three MPs are involved in the scam, he is not such a big force any more," a source in the Andhra Pradesh Congress told IANS.
The TRS walked out of the UPA in August 2006, with both Rao and his the then deputy A. Narendra resigning their ministerial berths, to protest the delay in the creation of a separate Telanaga state out of Andhra Pradesh.
Recently, the TRS, which has five members in the Lok Sabha, was informally offered a return to the UPA ranks and also perhaps a ministerial portfolio at a later stage, said Congress sources.
But with several TRS politicians being named in the human smuggling racket that came to light with last month's arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Babubhai Katara, the chances of TRS' return to the cabinet seem remote.
While Katara was allegedly using his diplomatic passport to transport a woman and a teenaged boy to Canada as his wife and son, subsequent investigations have spilled the names of several MPs and MLAs, prominently those from TRS such as Narendra.
TRS chief Rao suspended Narendra – who was incidentally instrumental in the party's leaving the UPA – soon after the latter was linked to the scandal.
Following Narendra's departure, Congress leader Kesava Rao reportedly met Chandrasekhar Rao "at a social gathering in Hyderabad" and suggested that he get back into the UPA.
"Later, not right away, we can work out something and you can rejoin the cabinet," Kesava Rao reportedly told the TRS chief. Chandrasekhara Rao then held a press conference to announce he had been invited to join the UPA.
But more TRS names were soon linked to the human trafficking scam.
The turn of events has given more bargaining power to the Congress, which has already reiterated that its stand on Telanaga remains unchanged.
Digvijay Singh, the Congress general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh, said: "TRS is welcome to return to UPA. The Congress stand remains the same – the setting up of a second States Reorganisation Commission (to look into the Telanga issue)."
This has infuriated Chandrasekhara Rao, who is already under pressure on account of the scam.
On Wednesday, he held a press conference expressing his anger at Singh. He reportedly told newsmen in Hyderabad, "Who is Singh? There are any number of Singhs. I talk to the highest."