Chiranjeevi's PRP merges with Congress in AP

Congress in Andhra Pradesh got a major boost when actor Chiranjeevi announced the merger of his Praja Rajyam Party with it that could come as a breather for the ruling party facing rebellion from Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and the sensitive Telangana issue.

After weeks of back channel talks between the two parties, actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, a strong votary of a united Andhra Pradesh, met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence here for over 50 minutes and finalised his merger plans that could bring new political alignment in the state.

"We have decided to merge the PRP with the Congress. It is in the best interests of the state of Andhra is an historic occasion for (the state and the two parties)," he told reporters outside Gandhi's residence.

During the meeting, attended by Congress leaders A K Antony and Veerappa Moily, 55-year-old Chiranjeevi said he discussed with Sonia the current political situation in the state and various developmental projects that will benefit people.

Moily said: "We welcome him. He has joined the Congress family from today."

Chiranjeevi's PRP, which was launched in August, 2008, has 18 MLAs in the 294-member Andhra Pradesh Assembly and his decision to merge with Congress can give its government some stability in case the 25 party MLAs loyal to Jagan break from it.

The actor also brings with him a considerable chunk of backward Kapu community votes spread mainly in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, but has only negligible in the Telangana area where a strong separatist movement is currently on.

Troubled by the revolt of Jagan, son of late Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, the Congress had removed the ageing veteran K Rosaiah and brought in a much younger Kiran Kumar Reddy and had been working on other ways to strengthen the party.

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