Will Rahul’s visit be the alchemy Telangana Congress hopes for?

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 12, 2018

A worker applies a fresh coat of paint to a statue of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, even as a larger-than-life cutout of Congress Vice-President occupies the background, in Sangareddy, on Wednesday   -  Mohd Arif

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Telangana on Thursday is aimed at reviving the party’s fortunes and giving it a new direction in the State, which turns three on June 2.

At the ‘Telangana Praja Garjana’ — Thursday’s public meeting in Sangareddy (erstwhile Medak district) — Rahul will seek to lift the morale of Congress cadre, who have been desperately looking for issues to build opposition to K Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS government.

It was in Medak that the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressed a public meeting in 1979, and, a year later, won her election to the Lok Sabha. Although Medak is Chief Minister KCR’s home district, the cadre are hopeful that Rahul’s address here on Thursday could turn the tide around for the Congress in the 2019 elections.

Troubles aplenty

The Congress, which played a key role in the formation of Telangana by getting the State formation Bill passed in Parliament, has not enjoyed much political success since. It won only 21 of 119 seats in the first State elections in 2014, and has struggled to keep its flock together. After desertions to the TRS, its tally in the State Assembly now stands at 13.

Also, the Grand Old Party has, of late, found itself under attack from both the ruling TRS and the BJP, which is looking to carve out greater political space for itself in the State.

Last week, BJP National President Amit Shah visited Nalgonda — a Congress bastion with 5 MLAs and a MP. The Congress is also battling internal squabbles in the district: there are growing differences between the powerful Komatireddy brothers, and Gutha Sukhender Reddy, a former MP, crossed over to the TRS last year. The BJP chief is understood to have targeted these developments, while also meeting intellectuals, visiting the homes of Dalits, villagers and, reportedly, even those of Congress leaders.

Aggressive BJP

The BJP’s presence is currently limited to Hyderabad and a few urban pockets in Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts, but its resolve is to emerge as the main Opposition, if not come to power in the State. Shah’s party is making attempts at occupying the space that the Congress is predicted to lose, if it does not get its act together.

Combative KCR

On the other hand, a combative KCR publicised a survey that claimed his TRS would win 111 of the 119 seats in the Assembly if elections were to be held now. His target was the Congress, which has raised voices of protest against the KCR government over issues faced by chilli farmers, promises of employment and housing falling flat.

The TRS has grown strong from 63 MLAs in 2014 to 90 presently, and the CM has challenged the Congress legislators to resign and test their strength. “Why should the people vote for the Congress which has ruled for many decades, but did nothing to fulfill the aspirations of the people?” KCR asked. To this, State Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy countered: “The TRS is feeling the heat of opposition, thriving on luring MLAs than real strength. The anti-incumbency in Telangana is growing.”

The first cross-overs to the TRS were independent MLAs and legislators from the YSR Congress. Then, the TRS turned its eyes to the Telugu Desam Party, which had 15 MLAs; it has only three now. To checkmate the BJP’s growth, KCR pushed through a reservation Bill targeting economically weaker sections of Muslims and STs and announcing a slew of welfare schemes to lure the traditional Congress supporters.

Published on May 31, 2017

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