Congress is getting its house in order in Telangana

The Congress central leadership have been able convince its Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka to end his padayatra at meeting being planned in Khammam on July 2

Congress party supporter holds a party flag (Photo: Getty Images
Congress party supporter holds a party flag (Photo: Getty Images

Ashlin Mathew

The Congress is slowly gaining traction on the ground, while also getting its house in order by reducing the infighting between leaders due to the intervention of the Congress central leadership in Telangana. The Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in December 2023 in the state.

The Congress central leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, have been able convince its Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka to end his padayatra at meeting being planned in Khammam on July 2 where Gandhi is set to speak. The meeting will also announce the entry of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) member and former Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy and his followers into the party.

“A Dalit leader in his own making, Vikramarkra’s padayatra has created ripples. Revanth Reddy too had organised a padayatra in February, which saw many people in attendance. But the larger unity among the Congress leaders came after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. It rejuvenated the cadre. This has given Congress an advantage. It is yet to be seen if it will convert to votes,” said Krishna Rao, a senior journalist and political commentator based in Telangana. Both the padayatras had the support of the Congress central leadership.

Bhatti’s padayatra has covered more than 1,300 km and he was scheduled to end his yatra with a huge meeting in Khammam on Wednesday. He began the yatra on March 16 as a part of the as part of the Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan and has covered 750 villages in 15 districts and 32 constituencies.

The AICC incharge for Telangana Manikrao Thakare and AICC Secretary Rohit Chaudhary had met Bhatti to merge his proposed public meeting with the meeting on Sunday. Bhatti agreed to the request.

“Bhatti Vikramarka will be felicitated at the public meeting. His yatra has motivated the cadre especially in several villages. Many farmers and Dalits met Bhatti to narrate their woes. There is definitely anti-incumbency against BRS. We will highlight all the failed poll promises of BRS,” said PC Vishnunadh, AICC secretary for Telangana. Vishnunadh, an MLA from Kerala, was earlier the AICC secretary for Karnataka.

Earlier, in December 2022, several Congress leaders revolted against Telangana Congress president A Revanth Reddy. He had joined the party from Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 2017. The leaders, known as G9, had all met at the home of Vikramarka. Nalgonda MP N Uttam Kumar Reddy, Sangareddy legislator T Jayaprakash Reddy, former Deputy CM Damodar Raja Narsimha, former MP Madhu Yakshi Goud, former MLAs Kodanda Reddy, A Maheshwar Reddy and former MLC Prem Sagar Rao were among those who attended.

All of them are Congress old timers and long-standing loyalists. They were upset that Revanth Reddy was favouring only newcomers. They had pointed out that all those who were included in the new party committees were those who were with Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) earlier.

Cracks appeared in the rebelling group when Vikramarka and Kodanda Reddy attended a convention organised by the party in Hyderabad in January after senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh had reportedly met them to resolve the issue. Congress National President M Mallikarjun Kharge too had requested them to unite.

It was as a part of addressing this issue that senior Congress leader from Maharashtra Manikrao Thakare was appointed the new AICC incharge for Telangana in January replacing Manickam Tagore, who was been made the incharge for Goa.

Both the leaders (Bhatti Vikramarka and Revanth Reddy) represent two different communities (Dalit and Reddy), which have traditionally supported the Congress.

“The Congress situation is improving on the ground, but it has to be remembered that Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s government has initiated a number of welfare schemes for backward classes, farmers and pregnant women,” pointed out Krishna Rao.

BRS, BJP leaders joining Congress

In a boost to the Congress, 35 leaders from ruling BRS, including former MP Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy and ex-minister Jupally Krishna Rao joined the party last week in the presence of Congress chief Kharge and former party chief Gandhi.

“There is a churning on the ground. You will see more leaders joining Congress in the near future. BRS leaders joined us last week, and soon a few BJP leaders will also join the Congress,” said Vishnunadh.

BJP in disarray

It has helped the Congress that BJP in a state of disarray in Telangana. The BJP central leadership has not been able to solve the problems between the recent entrant from BRS to BJP, Eatala Rajender and state party president and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar.

Kumar has been vociferously campaigning against the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS)-led government but several leaders in the state are upset with his style of functioning and one-upmanship. He has been pushing the Hindutva agenda in the state, which has upset a lot of the other party leaders as they believe it will not help the party in Telangana.

Rajender has been reportedly lobbying with home minister Amit Shah to change the state leadership in order to effectively campaign against the KCR government. He wants corruption to be the highlight of the campaign.

Into this whirlpool, film actor-turned-politician and former MP Vijayashanthi, who returned to BJP in 2020, tweeted that everyone, including Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay Kumar wanted to revoke the suspension of Goshamahal MLA Raja Singh. He was suspended in August 2022 after his arrest for passing derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad.

She had earlier questioned and accused Rajender of anti-party activities when he had remarked that all parties, including BJP, had a covert understanding with KCR.

There are rumours that Union Minister for Tourism and Culture G Kishan Reddy could be made BJP’s state president replacing Kumar. It is not yet reliably known if Bandi Sanjay Kumar will be given a berth in the Narendra Modi Cabinet.

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