STATE OF PLAY Comment

For Telangana Congress, a new president and some hope

A. Revanth Reddy  

The fear of being consumed by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is slowly gathering steam in Telangana, has pushed the Congress to focus on strengthening its cadre base and become relevant once again.

The formation of Telangana was a very emotive issue. The Congress thought it would gain from the birth of the new State. But since 2014, the party has only been diminishing in strength. Its poor performance has largely been due to infighting between senior leaders who projected themselves as chief ministerial candidates. Also, the defection of MLAs to the ruling party after the 2014 and 2018 elections badly damaged the Congress’s organisational strength.

For Telangana Congress, a new president and some hope
 

Now, hope has emerged for the many loyal party workers in the form of the new president, A. Revanth Reddy, a sitting Congress MP from Malkajgiri. After the 2018 polls, the party steadily lost its support base of Dalits and Muslims. In an effort to win them back, Mr. Reddy organised the ‘Dalita-Girijana Dandora’ to “expose” Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s unkept electoral promises made to Dalits and girijans. Meetings were held deep inside the Adilabad forests and in the heart of the Gajwel constituency represented by Mr. Rao. They were successful and sent a signal to the cadres that the party cared about its support base and was willing to take on the powerful.

But that euphoria was largely dampened by the outcome of the Huzurabad bypoll where the Congress lost deposit. The contest was seen as a fight between Eatala Rajender, who fell out with the TRS party leadership and joined the BJP, and the TRS’s Gellu Srinivas Yadav. Congress leaders argued that Huzurabad hasn’t been a Congress seat for decades, but the result nevertheless hurt the party. Hopes of a revival also faced a roadblock in the form of the BJP that won both the Dubbak and Huzurabad bypolls. “The Congress losses exposed the party’s crumbling organisational structure,” a senior leader said.

While the new Pradesh Congress Committee team has revived the practice of holding weekly meetings and programmes, these are only baby steps. Unless the party offers a new narrative instead of merely criticising Mr. Rao’s policies and his alleged corruption, it will fail to attract voters. The Congress’s social engineering plan is important given the growing political aspirations among the Backward Classes (BC) — communities that the BJP is assiduously wooing while also keeping the Reddy community happy. The Congress must ensure that leaders emerge from smaller and unrepresented BC communities that have gained strength over the years and not just from the Munnuru Kapu community.

There is also the problem of differences between senior leaders. However, when former Minister and Bhongir MP Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, a strong critic of Mr. Reddy, shared the dais with the PCC president at the Vari Deeksha (paddy protest) for the first time, it gave hope to the cadres that the senior leaders were trying to bury their differences.

Mr. Reddy is charismatic and dynamic but these traits will not revive the party’s fortunes and help it dethrone a strongman like Mr. Rao. Since Mr. Reddy is also known to be inaccessible, he has to first change that about himself before trying to transform the party. Mr. Reddy has spent many years working under Telugu Desam Party chief, N. Chandrababu Naidu, whose organisational skills are well known. At the same time, he has to instill the confidence that late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy instilled in the party. Everyone hopes to win elections but few have the will to prepare for the contest and make difficult decisions. The Congress cadre hopes that Mr. Reddy has that will.

ravikanth.ramasayam@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 2:05:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/for-telangana-congress-a-new-president-and-some-hope/article37778064.ece

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