Congress in tat­ters in Te­lan­gana after defeat

The party is cur­rently strug­gling to field can­di­dates in the on­go­ing elections in the state.


After a nose bleed­ing defeat in the Te­lan­gana Assembly elections in De­cem­ber last year, the Congress is in tat­ters and mired in in­ter­nal squab­bling. The party as­pired to come to power in the state and bag a ma­jor­ity of the to­tal 17 Lok Sabha seats in this sum­mer’s gen­eral elections, but it is in a dispir­ited mood, with many of its se­nior lead­ers ac­cus­ing the the AICC of mis­han­dling its al­liances. Party pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi is in an em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion as sev­eral se­nior lead­ers squarely blamed the de­faet on his decision to go for an al­liance with Chan­drababu Naidu’s TDP and float a grand al­liance which was touted to be a model for the rest of the par­lia­men­tary elections across the coun­try. Now that the grand al­liance has failed to take off in Te­lan­gana, it is doubt­ful whether it will be con­tin­ued else­where.

Congress won just 19 MLAS in Te­lan­gana as against its pre­vi­ous tally of 22 in 2014, though it has con­tested in al­liance with TDP and two other par­ties—te­lan­gana Jana Samithi (TJS) and CPI. This time, the Te­lan­gana Assembly elections were di­rectly led from the front by Rahul Gandhi and his team from Delhi. The lucky wins in three other states have eclipsed the fail­ure of Rahul Gandhi’s team in Te­lan­gana.

Go­ing by the tally of Assembly elections, Congress is not in a po­si­tion to win even one or two MPS from Te­lan­gana, leave alone its hopes of wrest­ing at least half of the 17. The party is cur­rently strug­gling to field can­di­dates in the on­go­ing gram pan­chayat elections in the state. Though these elections are held on a non-po­lit­i­cal ba­sis, the rul­ing TRS has taken the bat­tle as pres­ti­gious and is keen on bag­ging most posts.

On 6 Jan­uary, for­mer Union min­is­ter and se­nior Dalit leader Sarve Satya­naraya launched a di­rect at­tack in a party meet­ing on AICC in-charge gen­eral sec­re­tary R.C. Khuntia and Te­lan­gana Pradesh Congress Com­mit­tee (TPCC) pres­i­dent N. Ut­tam Ku­mar Reddy for their “sab­o­tage style of han­dling of the party af­fairs in the elections”.

Satya­narayana got suspended from the party for his “gross in­dis­ci­pline” and “out­ra­geous” com­ments against the party lead­ers. In­stead of dous­ing the dis­si­dence in the party, Satya­narayana, who lost from Se­cun­der­abad Can­ton­ment (SC) Assembly seat, has be­come a cen­tre point for other lead­ers who, too, were not happy with the lead­er­ship.

For­mer min­is­ters Ko­matireddy Venkat Reddy, who lost from Nal­go­nda seat, and D.K. Aruna, who lost from the Gad­wal seat, too, came out against the AICC’S decision to go for an al­liance with TDP and blamed AP Chief Min­is­ter Naidu’s cam­paign­ing for the defeat of Congress in Te­lan­gana. “Where is the need for giv­ing eight seats to TJS which has no pres­ence in the state?” asked Venkat Reddy at a party meet­ing this week.

Aruna, too, felt that the Congress high com­mand’s choice of a grand al­liance was wrong as the party had to give seats to smaller par­ties like TDP and CPI, while TDP’S Naidu had be­come a li­a­bil­ity. An­other se­nior leader and for­mer TPCC pres­i­dent Pon­nala Lak­sh­ma­iah, too, blamed the for­ma­tion of the grand al­liance for the defeat of Congress.

Though these lead­ers have not spo­ken against Rahul Gandhi as yet, their crit­i­cism against the grand al­liance is be­ing seen as one. In fact, when a ma­jor­ity of se­niors in the party had op­posed any open al­liance with TDP, it was Rahul Gandhi who had in­sisted on hav­ing an al­liance with the AP Chief Min­is­ter, as it would be help­ful for Congress at the national level.

Rahul Gandhi and his team were of the view that as Naidu

gram pan­chayat

had pulled out of the Bj­pled NDA and was com­mit­ted to float­ing an anti-naren­dra Modi front at the national level, it would be ben­e­fi­cial to have a tie up with him and they thought that the Te­lan­gana Assembly elections could be the start­ing point for this al­liance. Later, they roped in TJS and CPI to form an al­liance so that TDP could join it. Sources close to Ut­tam Ku­mar Reddy told this news­pa­per that it was the idea of AICC that the com­bined strength of Congress and TDP would def­i­nitely defeat the rul­ing TRS. In­stead, the party had fared badly de­spite sup­port from three other al­lies, thanks to bad plan­ning and poor poll man­age­ment. The pres­ence of for­mer Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi, too, failed to make any mark.

Now the party faces greater chal­lenges from within as lead­ers like Satya­narayana are out to ques­tion the way AICC in-charges ran the show. In 2014, a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion pre­vailed as the lead­ers who lost had blamed the loss on then AICC in-charge gen­eral sec­re­tary, Digvi­jaya Singh. As for TPCC chief Ut­tam Ku­mar Reddy, he could not get his even wife Pad­ma­vati get re-elected as MLA from the Ko­dad seat.

The im­pend­ing elec­tion of the Congress Leg­is­la­ture Party (CLP) leader on 16 Jan­uary is go­ing to fur­ther ex­pose the in­ter­nal dif­fer­ences as there are many con­tenders. CLP leader in the pre­vi­ous House, K. Jana Reddy lost from Na­gar­jua­nasagar to TRS can­di­date, N. Narasimha­iah. As the new CLP will also be­come the Leader of the Opposition with Cabi­net rank, there is a keen fight for the post.

While Ut­tam Reddy him­self is a con­tender to the post, as he is not sure of con­tin­u­ing as TPCC leader after the Lok Sabha elections, there are oth­ers like Mallu Bhatti Vikra­marka, D. Srid­har Babu, T. Jayaprakash Reddy, G. Venkatara­mana Reddy and Ko­matireddy Ra­jagopal Reddy in the field. The rul­ing TRS lead­er­ship is keenly watch­ing the in­ter­nal bick­er­ing in the Congress to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion.

N. Ut­tam Ku­mar Reddy

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