Congress leaders have failed to cash in on bifurcation

Unable to counter the acerbic campaign by Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, worried Congress leaders are banking on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to boost their prospects with just three days to go for conclusion of electioneering in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.

Clearly outwitted by KCR’s sharp attack during his whirlwind tour, Congress leaders are unable to rebut his allegations or get their act together. Many of them are candidates themselves in the Assembly election and unable to step out of their constituencies to campaign for the party.

Almost all chief ministerial aspirants such as the former Deputy Chief Minister Damodar Raj Narasimha, Telangana PCC Committee chief Ponnala Lakshmaiah, working chief N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, former Ministers — K. Jana Reddy, J. Geetha Reddy, D.K. Aruna and D. Sridhar Babu — and the former PCC chief D. Srinivas are staying put in their constituencies.

Realising that the State leaders have failed to cash in on Telangana formation, the AICC president and vice-president are leading the campaign in a phased manner. Both of them have already completed one round of electioneering. The Congress is literally on the defensive as the TRS chief’s vitriolic comments are unpalatable. Lacking a star or charismatic leader, the Congress leadership is yet to launch a collective campaign across the 119 Assembly and 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in Telangana to leverage the advantage of the party conceding the demand for creating a separate State.

But KCR has already covered 50 Assembly segments, boosting cadre morale by harping on his contribution and struggle that forced the UPA government to fulfil the 60-year-old aspiration of the people.

Mr. Rao did not mince words in asking the Congress leadership why he should merge his party with the Congress. He asserted that he had not given in writing that he would merge the party once bifurcation was completed. Did the Congress leadership really champion the cause of statehood, he asked, adding it was only under TRS pressure did the Congress government decide a separate Telangana.

It was left to the Gandhis to take the battle into the TRS stronghold by accusing KCR of going back on his promise. The AICC president, while taking all credit for creation of Telangana, said that at no stage did TRS have a role in it. At a recent meeting in Karimnagar, where she had promised Telangana in 2004, Ms. Gandhi tried to drive home the fact that development of the new State would be possible only through a Congress government at the Centre and here. Mr. Gandhi said the TRS president had met him and promised to merge his party with the Congress but backstabbed it. Congress leaders, pleading anonymity, lamented that senior leaders were more bothered about ensuring their own victory. “Personal interest has taken precedence over party interest,” a senior PCC leader remarked. But PCC spokesperson B. Kamalakar Rao told The Hindu that the party was united and had a collective leadership. “Our star leaders are Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and we are confident that the party will put up a good show under their leadership,” he said.

Ms. Gandhi is addressing two more meetings on Sunday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address a rally in Nalgonda district on Saturday.

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