Political vacillation of Jupally, Ponguleti: The much ado about nothing

Chronic gripers Jupally Krishna Rao, a loser in polls, and Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, a reject, did not yield to cajoling by the BRS and were eventually ejected out

Political vacillation of Jupally, Ponguleti: The much ado about nothing

HYDERABAD: As Jupally Krishna Rao and Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, the two leaders estranged by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), met top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, their formal entry into the grand-old party has become all but certain.

Ironically, this comes after months of dawdling, party-shopping and even flirting with the BJP. The two were unsure of a safe, BRS alternative that could best serve their interests, both political and business, more than satiating ideological aspirations, if only they had some.

The Telangana Congress is no doubt desperate to beckon and entice all and sundry into its fold in the crucial election year. But by looking to embrace two leaders who were considered spent force and good riddance in the BRS, the TPCC might just have added a few more knots to the mess in Mahabubnagar and Khammam districts.

The hype and hoopla that is being generated around the joining of both Jupally and Ponguleti is being viewed against this precise backdrop. Questions are being asked about their relevance in the current-day electoral politics, the stock they can add up to the Congress and whether the grand-old party is merely using these for optics to project a falsified resurgence in Telangana.

To begin this assessment with their stature, both Jupally Krishna Rao and Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, who were treated with the respect they deserved in the BRS, are only regarded as leaders with inconsequential influence: Even in their haydays, their grasp was only confined to their respective pocket boroughs with no larger and proven clout across their districts. They may not be minnows but were never seen as towering personalities either. The duo also don’t figure among the most captivating public speakers with sound knowledge on wide-ranging issues.

As reality may hurt and sound harsh, they remained nondescript within the ranks of the parties they sailed with. Also, both Jupally and Ponguleti had no visible ideology to pursue in the political realm. In the case of Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, the commonly-perceived refrain is that his politics are purely determined by the convenience of his business interests.

The ‘last but not the least’ factor was more palpable in the recent months. The alacrity with which the two oscillated from one political party to the other exposed their sheer opportunism pursued in the garb of internal democracy. The height of it came when the two showed no inhibitions to announce that they would ideally wait until after the Karnataka Assembly election results to choose their next prospective political cradle.

And just because the Congress fared well in the neighbouring state, the two, like true blue punters, are now showing zest to align with the same party in Telangana in utter disregard to the ground-level scenario.

Jupally’s tryst with the BRS and the fall

Jupally Krishna Rao, a former minister in the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government of the Congress in the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh, gravitated towards K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) at the height of the separate statehood agitation and joined the TRS (now the BRS) on October 30, 2011. He won for the fourth time from Kollapur in Mahabubnagar district in 2014 elections but lost out on a ministerial berth in KCR’s first cabinet in the fine calibration of social (caste) equations.

The 2018 election results rubbed salt on the wounds for an already sulking Jupally. The senior leader suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Congress party’s Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy by a margin of about 7,000 votes. To his misery, Jupally was one of only a handful of TRS candidates who tasted the ignominy amid a TRS sweep in that election. As his dreams of earning a ministerial berth came crashing down, he turned disgruntled and chose ‘offensive defence’ as his best bet in the hope of keeping the party leadership firmly in his grasp.

In a way, constituency-level political vicissitudes also played their part in his fall from grace – from being one of the closest to KCR at one time to a virtual pariah by 2023. Harshavardhan Reddy, the Congress legislator, subsequently switching his loyalties to the then TRS sounded the political death knell for Jupally. The move left him in jitters as he felt insecure over his political future. He first went into a cocoon before becoming a perennial dissident in the party.

Jupally began taking on the leadership in his public discourses for no rhyme or reason, questioning the decisions and even issuing veiled threats based on the issues on the ground in Mahabubnagar district.

Several attempts by the party leadership to placate him failed to yield positive results as the senior leader shunned all the proposals for his accommodation in some position of respectability. Some of the overtures were made by none other than K T Rama Rao, the party working president, but with little impact. In an attempt to dispel premonitions and boost his morale, KTR went all the way to Jupally’s house in Kollapur several months before his suspension from the party. Having already become rock-hard, the veteran leader was in no mood to pay heed to the party’s pleas.

After months of restraint, the BRS leadership finally decided to crack the whip and suspended him, along with Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, for anti-party activities in April, 2023. A few developments preceding the suspension seem to have prompted the BRS leadership to act decisively against Krishna Rao. Displaying open defiance for the umpteenth time, Krishna Rao shot back at a television journalist, saying: “Who said I am in the BRS?”. This, coming around the same time he joined hands with Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy at the latter’s Atmeeya Sammelan meetings, seemed to have sealed his fate in the BRS.

For a leader who saw his future in KCR’s TRS at the height of the separate statehood movement, his political flight in the pink party ended in a tailspin of sorts.

Ponguleti – a YSRCP turncoat who turned rebel in BRS

Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy was elected to the Lok Sabha from Khammam in 2014 on the ticket of the YSRCP of YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

A staunch businessman at heart, Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy treaded on predicted lines soon after the bifurcation of Telangana and crossed over to the then TRS. It is a combination of greed for greener pastures (read business interests) and a post-bifurcation compulsion that crystalised his decision to desert the YSRCP.

After passively spending out his full tenure as Khammam MP and sailing with the ruling party in the state, he was denied a renomination from Khammam for the 2018 elections. TDP migrant Nama Nageswara Rao was preferred over the YSRCP turncoat for the Khammam seat. His reputation as a rich businessman, all willing to spend liberally in elections, did not help his cause in his campaign for his renomination. He ended up as a sore loser as the then TRS found a better bet in Nama Nageswara Rao with an eye on the TDP votes to also help increase its Assembly seats in the district. Nama winning the Khammam contest and then eventually becoming the Leader of the TRS Lok Sabha Party only rubbed more salt on an already bruised ego of Srinivasa Reddy.

Despite his personal frustrations, Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy largely remained loyal to the BRS until the turn of 2023. Like Jupally Krishna Rao, Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy too became belligerent and upped the ante publicly against the party.

Seething with anger, he began targeting even KCR in public. A few months back, he hogged all the limelight in the media as he was speculated to be heading towards the BJP. After a few days of hype, the buzz died down as his plan to join the BJP fold apparently fizzled out, for reasons best known to Ponguleti and the saffron party.

He was also rumoured to have made hectic backdoor efforts to align with YS Sharmila’s YSRTP. Given his close proximity to the family of the late YSR and his widow YS Vijayamma, he was widely expected to join YS Sharmila’s party. But even that plan failed to get off the starting blocks with no clarity whatsoever on what became the impediment. In all this melee, Srinivasa Reddy was also said to have mended his ties with his former boss YS Jaganmohan Reddy, largely influenced by his business interests. The proof of it came when he met YS Jagan in Amaravati in February 2023.

The BRS largely ignored Ponguleti’s frequent barbs against it and gave him a long rope during which KTR and other leaders spared no effort to address his concerns. As it yielded no desired results and with the former MP showing no interest in mending his ways, the party eventually suspended him along with Jupally Krishna Rao.

Now that Ponguleti’s admission into the Congress appears only a mere formality, it remains to be seen how the TPCC will grapple with its off-shoot headaches in the form of a new turf war in Khammam district. The party will face its biggest riddle in the form of fiery senior leader Renuka Chowdhary. Though not in the reckoning anymore, Renuka is opposing Srinivasa Reddy’s induction tooth and nail as it directly slams the doors shut on her future prospects.

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