Credibility deficit, stigma haunt TPCC president Revanth Reddy; Congress at crossroads in Telangana

Revanth Reddy was caught on hidden video cameras carrying wads of currency worth Rs 50 lakh and offering the same to the Anglo-Indian MLA

Telangana Congress yet to reach consensus on candidates

HYDERABAD: Buoyed by Karnataka Assembly election results, the Congress in Telangana is trying to regain its lost ground. Though Congress leadership in Delhi feels “past glory” means returning to power, the larger perception among leaders of Telangana is that at least the Congress could revive itself to the second position. At a time when the Telangana unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is suddenly finding the going tough and seeing itself on a fledgling note, the Congress is grappling to regain its past glory.

However, the Congress suffers from an important factor. It has a rabble rouser as its Telangana unit president A Revanth Reddy. Though, he is perhaps the lone crowd-puller in his party and articulate in his expression in native Telugu, he cannot communicate either in Hindi or English. As far as Telangana is concerned, this inability may not become an impediment to him in his ongoing effort to mobilise support for the party.

However, the biggest challenge for him is that he’s stigmatised with the charge of carrying bribe amount to an Anglo-Indian nominated MLA to entice him to cross-vote in favour of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) way back in 2015. Revanth Reddy was caught on hidden video cameras carrying wads of currency worth Rs 50 lakh and offering the same to the Anglo-Indian MLA. The conversation was also recorded at that time.

He was a TDP MLA at that time and was entrusted with the task of garnering support to the party in the MLC elections at that point in time.

After he switched sides to the Congress, he faced stiff resistance from within the party. Traditional Congress leaders of Telangana could not immediately take his elevation to the position of Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) kindly. Many leaders like the erstwhile TPCC president and MP from Nalgonda Lok Sabha constituency Uttam Kumar Reddy, Bhuvanagiri MP Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, former MPs V Hanumantha Rao, Madhu Yaskhi Goud and others individually raised the banner of revolt against his leadership.

Revanth Reddy, on his part, has been trying to mollify their anger and massage their egos by calling on them personally. In a meticulous manner, he tried to placate the frayed tempers. But most of them have only cooled down temporarily. They maintain a blow-hot, blow-cold relationship with him, even though the representatives of the Congress high command try to caution them and pacify them to adjust in the larger interests of the party.

However, Congress has a problem of plenty when it comes to leading the party. Every leader aspires to be the helmsman in the party, though they are aware of the fact that key decisions are taken in the party headquarters in Delhi from times immemorial. It’s only when a powerful leader like YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the Chief Minister that the party high command left some decisions to him. Even then also, the high command used to send its observers whenever there was an issue. Though Dr Reddy was able to bulldoze, he used to be servile to the high command’s diktats.

But that kind of independence ceased to exist after his demise and things reached back to square one.

After the bifurcation of Telangana, the Congress remained in a shambles. It became extremely difficult for the TPCC presidents to keep the flock of MLAs together. After assuming the reins of administration as the Chief Minister of Telangana, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) systematically and meticulously raised his stature politically and also in terms of providing an unassailable leadership. This opened floodgates leading several MLAs go adrift towards the TRS (now Bharat Rashtra Samithi - BRS).

KCR in the process of fortifying his party’s numerical strength in the Assembly has almost nullified the Telugu Desam Party by admitting most of its legislators into the ruling party. The last nail in the TDP’s coffin was pierced after the 2018 Assembly elections when KCR had emerged as an invincible leader of Telangana with a huge majority. The TDP won a niggardly two seats which were also gobbled up by the TRS eventually.

At the same time, KCR enticed Congress MLAs too into the party and rewarded them with ministerial berths.

When the situation within the TDP turned hopeless, the Telangana unit’s president of the TDP Revanth Reddy crossed over to the Congress. He had contested Kodangal seat on behalf of the Congress. The ruckus created by him on the eve of the elections proved counterproductive for him, paving the way for the TRS to conquer his bastion.

Then he tried his luck in Malkajgiri as an MP candidate and won the seat. Later, he was “honoured” by the Congress with the position of the TPCC president.

Barring Communist parties and Majlis-e-Ittehaadul Muslimeen, Revanth Reddy had a brush with all the parties in the State by then including the TRS. Thus he branded himself as a political turncoat. This smudge on his political character has been working against the Congress in the State.

To his misfortune, the Congress had bitten the dust in all the by-elections that occurred in the state after he took over the TPCC mantle. In the Dubbaka, Huzurabad and Munugode Assembly by-elections, the Congress forfeited its deposit, accruing the stigma of being the mascot of ill-luck to Revanth Reddy. There is no place where the party could present a dignified performance in keeping with its stature. The vote bank worded and Revanth Reddy’s tongue-in-cheek behaviour came under cloud. Yet, the high command is letting him rule the roost, given the fact that he is at least a rabble rouser while other leaders are not even that.

With these many pitfalls, how can he lead the party to fight a political giant in Telangana, the BRS, is a pertinent question that is bothering the Congress leadership.

Speculation is rife that former BRS leaders Jupally Krishna Rao and Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy almost decided to join the Congress. If they join, given their antecedents of being impudent in a party like the BRS, there is no guarantee that they would not raise their heads against Revanth Reddy’s leadership. This will only aggravate the situation in a party that is already suffering from disunity and internal dissension. The duo will be one more addition to the bedlam within the Congress.

When the elections in Telangana are barely five months away, the Congress in the State is grappling while camouflaging its awkwardness by basking in the afterglow of the party’s resounding victory in the neighbouring Karnataka which hardly has any impact on Telangana politics. History proved it time and again.

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