Telangana: Congress sets in motion process for picking new chief

Hyderabad: After successive electoral defeats, Congress in Telangana is now faced with the task of choosing a successor to its state president N Uttam Kumar Reddy, who has resigned from the post after the party’s dismal showing in the recent civic polls in the city.

Consultations have been held by AICC in-charge of the party affairs in Telangana Manickam Tagore with a large number of leaders, including elected representatives, on picking the new head amid indications that there are at least 4-5 contenders for the post.

Uttam Kumar Reddy resigned in the wake of the Congress securing only two out of the total 150 wards in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections this month.

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BJP made major gains in the city polls, bagging 48, improving its 2016 tally of just four. The ruling TRS emerged as the single largest party winning 56 wards.

A herculean task of rejuvenating the party awaits the new Pradesh Congress President president with the presence of formidable competitors in ruling TRS and a resurgent BJP, fresh from its recent wins in the Dubbak assembly bypoll and the GHMC elections.

Congress in Telangana has been left in a poor shape after losing the assembly elections in 2014 and 2018, the recent Dubbak bypoll and the GHMC polls though it had hoped to make major political gains after granting statehood to Telangana six years ago.

The party, however, had managed to win three Lok Sabha seats in the general elections last year.

The switch over of 12 Congress MLAs to TRS in 2019 came as a jolt to the party and deprived it of the main opposition status in the 119-member assembly where now it has only six members.

Manickam Tagore, a Lok Sabha member from Tamil Nadu, held discussions with MLAs, MPs, senior leaders and District Congress Committee (DCC) presidents among others last week.

Tagore told PTI on Tuesday that views have been taken from about 160 leaders as former Congress president Rahul Gandhi always spoke about holding wider consultations and the voice of district leaders to be heard in such a process.

A report on the consultations has been submitted to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and further instructions were awaited, he said.

However, the issue of selection of the new PCC president could be a tough call as the party leaders are understood to have expressed divergent views to Tagore.

Asked about it, the AICC leader said the process involved 160 opinions and that they are bound to be different.

“It is not one opinion (that was taken),” he said.

According to party sources, there are at least four-five contenders for the post.

They include party MP Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who has gone on record saying he was an aspirant, another MP A Revanth Reddy, MLA D Sridhar Babu and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader M Bhatti Vikramarka.

According to party sources, a section supports Revanth Reddy, a firebrand leader known for his strident attacks on the ruling TRS and its leadership, while others point out that he is relatively a new entrant into the Congress.

He joined the Congress in 2017 after being a key leader in the TDP. He had also been with the TRSearlier.

The allegations against him in the cash-for-vote scam with regard to the legislative council election in 2015 may also go against him, the sources said.

Senior Congress leader V Hanumantha Rao, a former Rajya Sabha member who had served as PCC president earlier, said he suggested that the state chief post be given to a backward classes leader as they constitute a substantial section of the population.

The ruling TRS and BJP were also wooing the backward classes, he said.

Rao, a BC leader himself, is also an aspirant and sought the post for any other leader from the backward classes if he was not chosen.

According to Congress sources, several leaders preferred a senior leader for steering the state unit.

Senior leader and former vice-chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Marri Shashidhar Reddy, a die-hard Congressman, said the state leadership should be able to take everyone along, strengthen the party and create confidence among people that the party can take on the TRS government.

Besides, loyalty to the party should be an important criteria for the person to be appointed as the new PCC president, Shashidhar Reddy, son of former chief minister Marri Chenna Reddy, said.

Shashidhar Reddy is also seen by some as a deserving leader for PCC president’s post in view of his seniority, clean image and as the son of veteran leader Chenna Reddy.

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