Week before Telangana elections, Congress leadership in disarray as rallies fail to attract crowds

The lack of large crowds at meetings of its top leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, and State president Revanth Reddy, is causing panic.


HYDERABAD: As the Telangana Legislative Assembly election campaign nears its end, the Congress party is facing a crisis of dwindling attendance at its rallies. This is evident at the meetings of not just local candidates but also those of high command figures like Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, and Mallikarjun Kharge. This has raised concerns within the party about its dwindling fortunes, especially when compared to the enthusiastic crowds that flock to the ruling BRS meetings.

On one hand, the Congress is struggling with internal strife over last-minute candidate changes and is trying to appease its members. On the other hand, the lack of large crowds at meetings of its top leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, and State president Revanth Reddy, is causing panic.

On Saturday, Revanth Reddy's meetings in Shadnagar and Ibrahimpatnam were cancelled due to poor attendance. The Congress candidate for Shadnagar, K Shankaraiah, repeatedly announced that Revanth Reddy would be attending the meeting, but after 40 minutes, it became clear that he would not be able to make it. The crowd left the meeting place after arguing to be given the promised money for attending the event.

The day before, the AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, Priyanka Gandhi, and Revanth's meetings were sparsely attended. The high command was clearly upset that senior Telangana leaders were unable to draw crowds outside their constituencies.

Mallikarjun Kharge's meetings in Gadwal and Nalgonda were met with empty chairs, despite the mobilisation of crowds two to three days before the roadshows and corner meetings. The meetings held by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi in several constituencies on Friday were also sparsely attended. Congress leaders had expected at least 30,000 people to attend the meeting in Husnabad, but they were shocked to see only a crowd of 5,000.

The situation was similar at Revanth Reddy's meetings. Arrangements were made for 10,000 people at each location, but not even 1,000 showed up. Even those who came for meetings in Nakrekal, Suryapet, and Tungaturthi left early. In Komatireddy Venkat Reddy's roadshow in Nalgonda, his cadre were seen pleading with people to stay until Revanth finished his speech.

In the neighboring Munugode constituency, people were clearly unhappy with Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy's game of musical chairs ahead of the elections. He had switched to the BJP ahead of the Munugode by-polls a year ago and lost, and is now back to contesting on a Congress ticket, inviting ire from his partymen and the public alike.

Revanth Reddy's condescending attitude towards his own cadre has also not gone down well. In videos that went viral on social media, Revanth Reddy was seen stomping on and shoving away his cadre when they wanted to take selfies or shake his hand.

In addition, the harsh language used by the the TPCC president against Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) has backfired. His aggressive approach has alienated voters who are looking for a more nuanced and constructive discourse.

The Congress's internal divisions, with over a dozen Chief Ministerial candidates vying for power, have further confused voters. The party's inability to present a united front has undermined its credibility and weakened its appeal.

Protests erupted at some of Revanth Reddy's events, with people demanding the promised money for attending the rallies. The second-rung cadre were left embarrassed after promising people payment to attend the meetings, only to later be forced to leave empty-handed when the payments were delayed. In one video, people surrounded the houses of these leaders until they were paid their dues.

In contrast, people have been flocking to BRS roadshows despite the threat of rain, demonstrating their unwavering support for the incumbent party.

KCR's meetings have been met with overwhelming enthusiasm. Beneficiaries of his various schemes flocked to his public gatherings, eagerly awaiting his speeches. If there was no space, people gathered to listen to KCR's speech on LCD screens outside the venues. The sheer number of attendees evoked memories of the Telangana movement, which the Chief Minister spearheaded.

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