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From Practically Defunct to a Political Force: How Congress is Scripting Revival in Telangana Under a Former IAF Pilot

The Congress has deputed several state and national leaders to guide their state unit through the election and it has been successful in ridding itself of factionalism.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:December 6, 2018, 1:56 PM IST
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From Practically Defunct to a Political Force: How Congress is Scripting Revival in Telangana Under a Former IAF Pilot
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addresses a public gathering at Gadwal with Telangana chief Uttam Kumar Reddy.
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Bengaluru: From being practically defunct nearly a year ago, Congress is working overtime to script a remarkable revival in Telangana.

The party has deputed several state and national leaders to guide their state unit through the election. It has been successful in ridding itself of factionalism. And it is doing all this in tandem with three other parties - under the banner of 'Prajakutami (People's Alliance) - that it has allied with for this election. In other words, Congress is going ‘all in’ in Telangana.

The level of seriousness in the party, from its state unit right up to its highest leader, can be gauged from the fact that the party president Rahul Gandhi has held over a dozen rallies here.

Telangana is also the only state, of the five that are going to polls, where the former chairperson of the UPA, and former Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, has addressed prospective voters.

At various points over the last few weeks, a galaxy of leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, DK Shivakumar (their troubleshooter-in-chief in Karnataka), KC Venugopal (Karnataka Congress in charge), Raghuveera Reddy (chief, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee), Nagma, Randeep Surjewala, have camped in Telangana.

Sources say the timing of former Indian captain Mohd Azharuddin’s appointment as the working president of Congress’ state unit was also done with an election strategy in mind.

Ashok Chavan, the president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, was also brought in for not just his political experience but also for the proximity of his Parliamentary constituency – Nanded – with the border areas of Telangana.

Sources in the party say that the work of reviving the party began with the appointment of Uttam Kumar Reddy as the president of the party’s unit in Telangana by Rahul Gandhi.

The former Indian Air Force pilot, who is known to have flown fighter jets like Sukhoi and MiGs, was also given the freedom to accomplish the task of bringing in various factions of the party unit together.

He was propped up as the Reddy face of the party. Owing to his low profile and non-controversial history, he became an acceptable choice for various factional leaders within the state’s Congress unit to interact with.

Not only was he successful in bringing the warring factions together, Reddy also was able to make Congress an acceptable political force among the masses.

Sources say that together with his wife Padmavathi Reddy, who is also an MLA in the state assembly, Uttam Reddy began Congress’ outreach in Telangana by convening several small scale public meetings to spread his party’s ideology and to understand what people expected from the Congress.

Another factor that worked in Congress’ favour was the swiftness with which N Chandrababu Naidu, chief of Telegu Desam Party, offered his support to the Congress, sources in the party say.

Naidu did not just offer support to the Congress without delay, he also settled for only 13 seats, when seats were distributed between the TDP, Congress, CPI and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS). Given that TDP won 15 seats with as much share in vote percentage, it shows the desperation with which Naidu wants to defeat K Chandrashekar Rao led TRS and the BJP.

This is how the Congress-TDP combine was able to weather the shock delivered by KCR when he called for early elections, which initially seemed to have delivered a heavy blow to both the parties.

Both the Congress and TDP are also appealing to the emotions of Telangana’s voters as well. While Sonia Gandhi issued a statement reminding the voters of Congress’ role in carving out the separate state of Telangana, Chandrababu Naidu is also jogging voters’ memories about all that his party founder NT Rama Rao in his time did for the people.

Whether Congress, the TDP, and the regional grand-alliance 'Prajakutami' are able to touch the chords of the masses, we'll find out in less than a week from now. But there's no doubt about the fact that Congress has made a remarkable revival to give the fight of its life and win over India's youngest state.
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