Hyderabad: From a distant third in the race, the Congress party in Telangana appears to have catapulted to a position where it can pose a real challenge to the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).
Upbeat after its recent victory in Karnataka, the grand old party sees a realistic chance of capturing power after failing twice, despite claiming credit for the state’s formation nearly a decade ago.
Highlighting the six guarantees announced last month and targeting the K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) government over its failures, the Congress is looking to unleash an intensive campaign in the state.
The morale of the Congress has been boosted by some key leaders of the BRS joining its ranks. However, this has also resulted in bad blood within the Congress in some places as a section of loyalists are miffed over the party promising tickets to BRS defectors.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent claim that KCR had met him after the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections in 2021 to seek the BJP’s support and also to appeal to Modi to let the BRS be a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has provided ammunition to the Congress.
The Congress leaders say that Modi’s claim proves their allegation that the BRS is the ‘B team’ of the BJP. At a mammoth public meeting in Hyderabad on September 17, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had claimed that the BJP, BRS and the AIMIM were working in partnership.
He said though KCR looted the state, Modi did not order an investigation as they have a partnership. “The ED, CBI and the IT Department are after Opposition leaders but there are no cases against Telangana Chief Minister and AIMIM leaders. Narendra Modi doesn’t attack his own men. He considers KCR and AIMIM leaders as his own,” Rahul Gandhi said.
After Modi’s shocking ‘disclosure’ at a public meeting in Nizamabad on October 3, the Congress party stepped up attacks on the BRS and the BJP. The Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president A Revanth Reddy alleged that the BJP was not taking any action against KCR’s ‘corruption’ as it also gets its share in the ‘loot’.
The Congress party hopes that with Modi ‘exposing’ KCR, it will get the Muslim votes. Revanth Reddy has already demanded that the AIMIM spell out its stand in the light of Modi’s revelations. Alleged corruption in irrigation projects, especially in Kaleshwaram, encroachment on prime land by the KCR family and those close to them, alleged land grabbing in the name of the Dharani portal are the issues that the Congress is focusing on.
The Congress is also targeting KCR over leak of question papers of various recruitment exams conducted by the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC). The cancellation of Group I Prelims by the High Court for the second time due to negligence by the TSPSC has come in handy for the Congress to sharpen its attack on the KCR government.
The Congress is also taking BRS to task over unfulfilled promises, including filling of two lakh vacancies in government departments, unemployment allowance and land for Dalit families. Realising the importance of winning Telangana, the central leadership of the Congress party is focusing on the state.
The meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in Hyderabad last month followed by a massive public rally addressed by party president Mallikarjun Kharge and senior Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others and the visit of the CWC members and other central leaders to various constituencies, have added to the enthusiasm in the Congress camp.
The Congress is focusing on six guarantees to woo the voters with the hope that they will help the party replicate the success story of Karnataka in Telangana too. Among the six guarantees that the Congress is banking upon are the promises of providing financial assistance of Rs 2,500 to every woman, free bus travel for women in TSRTC buses across Telangana, and cooking gas cylinders for Rs.500. The six guarantees target various sections like women, farmers, the homeless, youth and senior citizens.
The Congress party is trying to prove that despite defeats in the 2014 and 2018 polls, defections, poor performance in Assembly by-elections and GHMC polls, it remains a strong force in the state. Unlike the BJP whose presence is confined to a few districts, the Congress party still has a strong presence across the state.
The Congress, which was hoping to politically benefit in Telangana by claiming credit for delivering a separate state, had lost the initiative to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (now BRS) in 2014. In the 119-member Assembly, the Congress party could win only 21 seats while the TRS formed the first government in the new state. Out of 17 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress could win just two. Defections of some MLAs and resignations of several senior leaders to join the TRS had further weakened the party.
The slide continued for the Congress in 2018 too. Despite an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Left and other small parties, the Congress could win only 19 Assembly seats while the 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 the TRS a few months later.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the 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, buoyed by the win in Karnataka, the Congress party is going all out to bounce back in the state this time around.