Congress denies KCR a hat-trick, set to form its first government in Telangana

Its six guarantees, better poll management, right selection of candidates, Muslim voters shifting towards the party and anti-incumbency against BRS MLAs helped the Congress dethrone KCR after 10 years

The Congress victory procession in Hyderabad on Sunday, 3 Dec.
The Congress victory procession in Hyderabad on Sunday, 3 Dec.

Naheed Ataulla

Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s hopes of securing a third term in office were dashed on Sunday after a resurgent Congress defeated Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) with a big margin.

The Congress bagged 64 out of of the total 119 Assembly seats in the election results declared on Sunday. The BRS was confined to 39 seats, a massive slide from its 2018 tally of 88 seats. The Congress, in turn, made a big leap from its 19 seats in 2018.

This is the first victory for the Congress in Telangana after the state was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.  

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi would tell voters in his rallies to make a choice between “Doralu” (feudal) Telangana (referring to Rao‘s governance) and “Prajalu” (people‘s) Telangana.

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) retained its seven seats and the CPI one. The surprising factor was the BJP’s performance, which was not much in the reckoning as the contest had become bipolar between the BRS and the Congress with the AIMIM restricted to its traditional winning seats.

The BJP pipped even Owaisi’s AIMIM that had contested nine seats this time as against its usual seven in the old city of Hyderabad.

Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief A. Revanth Reddy was confident of victory soon after the polling ended on 30 November. He took to his X handle saying time had come for a change in the government. “Let’s end decades of destruction. Let’s start the rule of public aspiration. Let’s join hands. Let’s keep Telangana at the top,’’ he wrote.

What worked for Congress?

Congress sources said political strategist Sunil Kanugolu, who came up with innovative campaign strategies during the Karnataka polls, replicated them in Telangana. Besides, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, deputy chief minister D.K. Shivakumar, known for his electoral management skills, and several ministers and Congress MLAs pitched camp in Telangana. “It was a targeted campaign and the mood favouring the Congress was set during the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” said Syed Naseer Hussain, Congress whip in the Rajya Sabha.

Besides, voters fatigue with Rao’s nine-and-a-half years of governance, local anti-incumbency, the Congress parties’ six guarantees, youth’s disappointment over not getting the promised jobs and a major shift of Muslim votes towards the Congress, among other things, helped the party conquer Telangana.

Muslims are present in considerable numbers in almost all districts of Telangana, but are predominant in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts.

Regarding the shift in the Muslim votes for the Congress, Political analyst T.S. Sudhir said: “There is a bit of debate that the minorities outside of Hyderabad were wanting to give the Congress a chance just like in Karnataka. There was also a suspicion that Rao may join the BJP-led NDA. Modi’s claim at a public meeting that Rao had offered to join the NDA added fuel to this suspicion. The Congress’s narrative that BRS, BJP and AIMIM are together, struck a chord.’’

The six guarantees too helped the Congress to a large extent, Sudhir added.

Karnataka’s medical education minister Sharan Prakash Patil said he told the voters how the Congress government in Karnataka had successfully implemented the five guarantees from the first day of assuming office. “This was necessary as Rao in his poll speeches was saying the five guarantees were a failure,” he added.

Summing up the Congress victory, AICC secretary in-charge of Telangana Mansoor Ali Khan said that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra had prepared the ground for Congress’s revival in the state. The massive Karnataka victory further consolidated the party’s position in the neighbouring Telangana. The six guarantees and the selection of right candidates were the other key factors. “The party showed that it was in favour of the lower and middle class people who have aspirations and we really fought it out,’’ he added.

The Congress legislators’ meeting presided over by AICC observers D.K. Shivakumar and others was scheduled late in the evening to choose their leader.

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