In 2014, when Kiran Kumar Reddy quit the Congress party to launch his Jai Samaikhyandhra party, he displayed a souvenir that he claimed was from the Berlin Wall.
"If the Berlin Wall that divided the two countries could fall, Andhra Pradesh can be united again," said Reddy at that press conference. Four years later, the only wall that has fallen is the one between Reddy and the Congress.
On Friday, as the last Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh did a ghar waapsi to the Congress in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, Kiran Kumar Reddy would be aware that his second innings in the party will be in no way as glorious as his first. The Congress, thanks to its decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, is a political zero, with not a single MP or MLA from the state. The anger of 2014 has not ebbed and the party is still held up as a villain for the people who feel bad about the division and losing Hyderabad.
Not that Reddy would be expected to rejuvenate the party overnight. Kiran Kumar Reddy has never been a mass leader in the mould of the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Nor is he a people's person like Jaganmohan Reddy or someone who commands mass adulation like Pawan Kalyan does. Bluntly put, he is a mere trophy for the newly appointed AICC General Secretary in charge of Andhra, Oommen Chandy, to boast that he got a former chief minister back in the party.
Sources say Reddy will be expected to woo some of the leaders who quit the party post 2014, to return to the fold. These may include the likes of former MPs GV Harsha Kumar and Konathala Ramakrishna. But the catchment area is not too huge. Most of the ex-Congress leaders are now well entrenched either in the Telugu Desam, YSR Congress or the BJP. These include the likes of Purandareswari, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, JC Diwakar Reddy, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, Botsa Satyanarayana, Kanna Laxminarayana - all of whom were leading lights of the Congress from Andhra, either in New Delhi or in Hyderabad. Which is why it is unlikely that Reddy has his sights set on Andhra Pradesh as the pitch to bat on.
The cricketer-turned-politician is reportedly eyeing the post of an AICC General Secretary in Team Rahul. But, will the Congress be generous so soon with someone who quit the party in a huff? Reddy's calculation is that the Congress will take another decade or more to be in the reckoning in Andhra. But there is comparatively a better chance of the Congress making a return to power at the Centre in 2024, if not 2019. Which is why he is looking at a national role for himself like his friends, former Union ministers Pallam Raju and JD Seelam.
It is quite likely then that Reddy would look at contesting from a Lok Sabha seat from the Rayalaseema region in Andhra and Rajampet constituency is being mentioned as one of the probable seats. And that is where it is suspected that there is a Chandrababu Naidu hand in the Return of the Reddy. Not to be missed is the fact that Kiran's brother, Kishore Kumar Reddy is already in the TDP. The political theatre in Andhra believes Kiran Reddy, a known political rival of Jagan, has been drafted with the specific purpose of neutralising the Reddy community vote that would otherwise go en masse in favour of the YSR Congress.
There could be a hush-hush tacit understanding with the TDP as a Congress that nibbles away at the Reddy vote in the four Rayalaseema districts and Nellore and Prakasam, will only end up benefiting Naidu. In return, the TDP could help by fielding weak candidates to help a few Congress candidates including Kiran, pass muster. On paper, a TDP-Congress jugalbandi sounds improbable given the fact that anti-Congressism has been in TDP's DNA. The party was founded by NT Rama Rao in 1982 to take on the Congress and for three decades, the two parties have faced off against each other. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the two parties would even admit to any behind the scenes moves.
But Naidu - incidentally a former Congressman himself - realises that if he is to win 2019, he needs partners, visible or otherwise, to take on a resurgent Jagan as he cuts through the Andhra landscape by foot. Then there is Pawan Kalyan, drawing huge crowds, who hopes to get lucky and emerge as the HD Kumaraswamy of Andhra next year. The Congress is the only party that has no hope of getting anywhere close to power and Naidu would not mind cutting a deal to win a bigger war. So is Kiran Kumar Reddy that first big move on the Andhra chessboard?