The Indian National Congress took the inevitable and brave decision of making Anumula Revanth Reddy the new president of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC). The decision was taken after many speculations and turmoils within the party, but this gamble is likely to have a huge bearing on the politics of Telangana before the youngest state in the country goes for polls in 2023.
The Congress, which was in a dormant position in Telangana, is all set to gain momentum with Revanth Reddy taking charge as Party chief. With him will be six working presidents named from Minority and Backward sections of society. The party’s senior vice-presidents named in the new list will also strengthen Congress’s reach among the Backward classes in the state.
Revanth Reddy now has the responsibility of reviving fortunes of the grand old party of India, which is facing an existential crisis in the region even after dividing the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh (AP) state to meet the aspirations of people from Telangana. Congress loyalists hope Revanth Reddy will help the party finds its mojo back and will be able to consolidate its position as the main challenger to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
Since 2014 and more so from the time when TRS supremo and current chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) got him arrested for the ‘Cash for Vote’ scandal, Revanth Reddy has been looking for an opportunity to turn tables on the chief minister of Telangana.
With his erstwhile party Telugu Desam losing sheen in the region, Revanth Reddy moved to the Congress with the hope of leading the party here one day and to take on KCR with full might. And after great turmoil, that opportunity has now landed at the doorsteps of Revanth Reddy, who is likely to remain Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee chief until next elections in 2023.
BJP, an emerging threat
Though the Congress Party led United Progressive Alliance Government passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill in the Parliament and cleared obstacles for creation of separate Telangana State; it failed to capitalize from the move and Telangana Rashtra Samithi formed the Government with a clear majority. And on the other hand, the Congress Party found it difficult to retain elected Legislators from shifting away and joining the party in power. Congress suffered Similar defections again after 2018 elections with Party MLAs deserting it to side with TRS.
And during these seven years since 2014 BJP is closing gap on the Congress and today created a perception of being the primary opposition to TRS. BJP’s aggressive stance got rich dividends in 2019 Parliamentary Elections when the saffron party won three seats in the north Telangana region along with Secunderabad Parliament seat. Appointment of Bandi Sanjay Kumar, MP from Karimnagar as BJP Telangana chief and his political aggression gave the party the much-needed fillip in subsequent elections.
BJP winning Dubbaka by-polls last year, and also putting up a stupendous performance in the 2020 Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections encouraged many in the saffron brigade to believe it is within a striking distance of power in Telangana. On the other hand, Congress Party’s dismal performance even dwindled self-belief among the cadre which was found disillusioned about the future of the party in the state.
Defections & Desertions
Congress had many claimants for the post of PCC chief including the Komatireddy brothers (Venkat Reddy and Raj Gopal Reddy), T. Jeevan Reddy, Madhu Yashki, Sreedhar Babu etc. While names of Komatireddy brothers pushed their case with the high command multiple times, their wish has been ignored, and they did not even find place in Revanth Reddy’s team. This development is likely to lead to many defections from the party in the weeks and months ahead.
While few Congress leaders may join BJP, some will go towards TRS. But the biggest problem ahead for the new PCC chief would be with the trojan horses who are likely to remain within the party and might wait for an opportune time to hurt Congress’s prospects before the next elections. Revanth Reddy will have to build a loyal yet robust team to overcome any possible surprises in the times ahead.
Appointment of Revanth Reddy, who is considered a mass leader and got strong fan base among the youth of Telangana, will make 2023 elections to the State Assembly, a three-way contest. While the anti-incumbency vote will split between the Congress and the BJP, a well-oiled campaign along with right social engineering should help the grand old party more than the saffron party.
If Revanth Reddy can convince the voters of Telugu Desam Party in Telangana region, most of whom belong to the Backward Classes, to back him, the Congress might be up for a pleasant surprise when State goes to polls.
In conclusion, it can be said that the Indian National Congress has taken a risk by appointing Revanth Reddy as TPCC chief at the risk of losing few more party loyalists. But this is possibly the best shot the party has to revive itself in the state it created by sacrificing its prospects in the 13 districts of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh!
(The author is a political communications specialist who has worked in the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and others)