Congress propels to emerge key challenger in Telangana

The victory of Congress in neighbouring Karnataka and subsequent developments clearly indicate that the grand-old-party is pumped up to project itself as the alternative to Chief Minister KCR-led BRS.

Hyderabad: The Congress, which appeared to be trailing in Telangana at the third position a couple of months ago with the morale of party cadres at its lowest, now seems to have catapulted to be the key challenger to ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).

The victory of Congress in neighbouring Karnataka and subsequent developments clearly indicate that the grand-old-party is pumped up to project itself as the alternative to Chief Minister KCR-led BRS.

After failing to capture power twice despite claiming credit for carving out Telangana state, the Congress party this time appears more confident.

Political analysts say the win in Karnataka has given the much needed boost to the Congress in Telangana.

In just one shot, it seems to have recovered from the shock of defections by a dozen MLAs soon after the 2018 polls, poor performance in all the Assembly by-elections and the infighting.

The Karnataka victory came at a time when Congress was looking down and out in Telangana due to the emergence of an aggressive BJP, which was projecting itself as the only viable alternative to the BRS.

The success of Congress in attracting a few leaders from the ruling party and the massive public response to the July 2 public meeting of Rahul Gandhi in Khammam are the other indicators of growing importance of the party in the state.

With just 4-5 months left for the polls, the Congress has suddenly emerged as the key challenger in the race for power, pushing BJP to third position.

Realising the importance of winning Telangana, the central leadership is also focusing on the state.

Rahul Gandhi, Congress president Mallikarjun kharge and other top leaders held a key meeting recently to discuss the strategy.

With promises on the lines of five guarantees given in Karnataka, the Congress is looking to further consolidate its position.

As part of this, Rahul Gandhi announced at the Khammam meeting that if voted to power Congress will pay Rs 4,000 monthly pension to widows, senior citizens and other beneficiaries.

This is almost double the pension BRS government is currently giving. That the Congress party is upbeat was evident from Rahul Gandhi’s confident tone at the Khammam meeting titled ‘Telangana Jana Garjana’ (Roar of Telangana people).

With this public meeting, the Congress leader sounded the bugle for the Assembly elections due to be held later this year.

The huge response lifted the spirit of the party cadre in the state and gave it the confidence that it can give BRS a run for its money.

This was the first major show of strength by the Congress in Telangana after its victory in Karnataka elections.

The state Congress leaders claimed that the Congress cadre is rejuvenated, enthused and buoyant after the massive success of the Khammam rally.

Rahul Gandhi boosted the morale of the party by declaring that BJP is longer in the race in Telangana and that the direct fight will be between Congress and BRS. Karnataka will be repeated in Telangana, he thundered.

Political analysts say while the momentum shifted towards Congress after its victory in Telangana, the party has made a good beginning to build on this momentum.

“Congress sees an opportunity in Telangana and it is trying to make full use of this,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

The meeting was not only to induct former MP Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy into the Congress but also marked the culmination of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka’s padyatra.

The Congress has shown that despite defeats in 2014 and 2018 polls, defections, poor performance in Assembly by-elections and elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and the infighting, it remains a strong force in the state.

Unlike BJP whose presence is confined to few districts, Congress still has a strong presence across the state. The grand-old-party got a big boost recently when 35 leaders from BRS, including former Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy and former minister Jupally Krishna Rao decided to join Congress.

The Congress, which was hoping to politically benefit in Telangana by claiming credit for delivering a separate state, had lost the initiative to Telangana Rashtra Samithi (now BRS).

In the 119-member Assembly, the Congress could win 21 seats while TRS formed the first government in the new state.

Of the 7 Lok Sabha seats, Congress could win just two. Defections of some MLAs and resignation of several senior leaders to join TRS had further weakened the party. The slide continued for the Congress in 2018.

Despite an alliance with Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Left and other small parties, Congress could win only 19 Assembly seats while TRS retained power by increasing its tally from 63 to 88.

The Congress could not keep its flock together as a dozen MLAs defected to TRS a few months later. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress managed to win three seats.

However, the party’s performance was disastrous in Assembly by-elections during the last four years as it failed to win a single seat.

However, the Karnataka outcome and subsequent developments hint at the reversal of the party’s fortunes in the state.

The Congress leaders claim that the manner in which BRS “distorted” statements of state party chief A. Revanth Reddy over free electricity to farmers show that the ruling party fears defeat in the coming elections.

Alleging that Revanth Reddy opposed free power to farmers, BRS called for a state-wide protest for two days.

The TPCC chief clarified that during his speech at a meeting in the United States, he was highlighting how KCR was misleading people by claiming to provide 24-hour power to farmers.

Hitting back at BRS, the Congress also called for protests at power substations. Its leaders dared BRS to prove that they are supplying round-the-clock power to farmers.

The Congress alleged that BRS is spreading lies by distorting the statement of Revanth Reddy to mislead people.

“It is clear that BRS is scared due to the rising graph of the Congress party in Telangana,” said AICC in charge for Telangana Manikrao Thakare.

“The BRS leaders have realized that ground is slipping under their feet and hence they are spreading these lies,” he said.

Claiming that the Congress stands for the welfare of farmers, he said the party would promise 24-hour free electricity.

Recalling that their leader Rahul Gandhi had released farmers’ declaration in Telangana, he said the Congress would do more for farmers than what BRS claims to be doing.

The Congress is looking to further bolster its campaign by inviting party leader Priyanka Gandhi to hold another big public meeting.

This time the meeting is proposed to be held at Nagarkurnool in undivided Mahabubnagar district.

Former minister Jupally Krishna Rao and several other BRS leaders are likely to join Congress at this public meeting.

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