Taken aback by TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao announcing the first list of party candidates, the Congress which had plans to stitch up a last-minute alliance with TRS, is now pinning all its hopes on the election rallies to be addressed by AICC chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Trying to put up a brave face, Congress leaders admit that alliance with TRS could have boosted the prospects of the party multi-fold. Even though the task is cut out, they are hopeful of convincing the people that Telangana had become a reality because of the Congress. “The TRS chief’s action is certainly a slap in our face,” a Congress leader said, adding that Mr. Rao had gone back on his promise to merge his party after division of the State and then speaking about an alliance.

In private, leaders point out that Mr. Rao has jumped the gun when backroom deliberations were on for a possible alliance. They admitted that there was stalemate as the TRS chief wanted 60 Assembly, six Lok Sabha seats besides a firm assurance that he would be made the Chief Minister.

Congress leaders say the TRS chose to announce candidates in constituencies where it was confident of putting up a good show. Congress leaders said the TRS would be happy giving a fight in the 69 seats (the list of which was announced on Friday) as it is on a weak wicket in Khammam, Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Mahabubnagar districts and parts of Adilabad.

Party leaders now see an interesting fight in several constituencies and maintain that the contest is now evenly poised. A section of the leaders feel that chances of the Congress are good even if the verdict is fractured. “If Congress is able to win around 50 seats, it can always bank on the support of the MIM and the CPI. The same cannot be said about TRS because it cannot trust the TDP-BJP combine to support the government,” a TPCC functionary pointed out.

TPCC president Ponnala Lakshmaiah told reporters on Friday that the party had expected that the TRS chief would resort to his old tactics. He is leaving for New Delhi on Saturday morning and indications suggest that the first list of candidates would be declared on Saturday night.

Keywords: SoniaGandhiRahultourTelangana