Hyderabad : Dissidence within the ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh came into the open Monday as senior leader P. Janardhan Reddy launched a scathing attack on the functioning of the chief minister at a party meeting held to mark completion of the government's three years in office.
Janardhan Reddy's attack on Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in the presence of Congress central leaders and the entire party state leadership disrupted the proceedings at the 'Rededication Day' meeting, attended by 15,000 delegates at Lal Bahadur Stadium.
Many delegates, considered to be chief minister loyalists, stood up and raised slogans to stop Janardhan Reddy. As the situation turned ugly, the chief minister appealed to the delegates to have patience.
"The press in this state is against us. They blow things out of proportion. Don't give them any opportunity," said Rajasekhara Reddy to party leaders.
Though he pacified the delegates, Janardhan Reddy resumed his speech and alleged that some leaders had brought their own men by securing delegates' passes. "Had you allowed me to bring my followers I would have shown my power," he said.
Switching over to Hindi for the convenience of party's central leaders, the dissident leader said the party would be strengthened only if the government functions properly. He wondered how the Congress would win the 2009 elections if the present state of affairs continued.
Janardhan Reddy, who had led the party in the assembly from 1994 to 1999 when it was in the opposition, said the functioning of the government was affecting the Congress' image.
He reiterated the demand for fair share of water and jobs for Telangana and alleged the government was ignoring the region by diverting water to other areas. Janardhan Reddy also demanded separate statehood for the backward region.
Recalling the party's 2004 election promise that if it came to power, Telugu Desam Party president and then chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu would be sent to jail for his acts of omission and commission, he wanted to know why it had not been done.
Janardhan Reddy, who represents Khairatabad constituency in the state capital, criticised the chief minister for not calling even one meeting of city MLAs to discuss the city's problems.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of party affairs Digvijay Singh arrived soon after Janardhan Reddy began his speech. AICC secretary Iqbal Singh was already present.
Though a critic of the chief minister, Janardhan Reddy's attack came as a surprise as all the speakers before him had praised Rajasekhara Reddy's leadership.
The daylong plenary is also debating 'Target 2009', a strategy on retaining power in the next assembly elections.
Earlier, state Congress president K. Keshava Rao urged the party leaders to remain united. "A united Congress party is invincible," he said.
His appeal comes hours after dissidents confronted the leadership at the executive of state Congress committee in the presence of Iqbal Singh.