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How Congress ended KCR’s rule in Telangana. ‘Congress became BJP, and BJP became Congress’

Hyderabad: The Congress has captured power in Telangana, winning 64 seats in the 119-member assembly, surpassing the simple majority mark of 60 and marking the end of the two-term rule of the K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR)-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government.

Telangana Congress leaders are preparing to form the next government this week, coinciding with Sonia Gandhi’s birthday on Saturday, 9 December.

Politicians across the spectrum attributed the Congress’s victory to its robust campaign, including its six poll guarantees inspired by Karnataka’s model, widespread discontent with KCR, as well as the BJP’s failure to establish itself as a strong alternative.

A Telangana BJP leader, speaking on condition on anonymity, said that in this election the BJP and the Congress seemed to have “swapped” characteristics.

“The upfront reason is simple – the BJP became the Congress and the Congress became the BJP,” he said. “We were fraught with internal feuds unheard of in the BJP before, whereas Revanth Reddy was successful in bringing the Congress’s divided house in order, getting them to rally behind him unitedly.”

Revanth, a former Telugu Desam Party (TDP) legislator, joined the Congress in 2017 and is the Malkajgiri Lok Sabha MP, although he contested the assembly election this year. He was appointed as the chief of the Telangana unit in June 2021 after the party lost the Nagarjuna Sagar assembly constituency— its third consecutive by-poll loss in Telangana this term.

Revanth faced the challenge of leading the Congress amid continuous internal feuds. However, party leaders told ThePrint that he was granted latitude and support from the high command to unify the state unit and lead it to victory. The high command also quelled dissenting voices speaking against his “outsider” status, nipped certain chief ministerial ambitions in the bud, and sent out a strong message that Revanth was at the helm of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC). Additionally, they reportedly successfully dissuaded ticket-denied candidates from contesting as rebels in a dozen seats.

Apart from his organisational skills, Revanth is widely regarded as a skilled orator, capable of matching KCR’s diatribes against his opponents.

Revanth reclaimed the Kodangal constituency, which he lost in the 2018 polls, and was also instrumental in taking his party’s candidates to victory in 63 other constituencies. During the course of the elections, he addressed around 50 public meetings across the state.


Also Read: Why KCR’s adopted village in Telangana is upset with him


BJP’s loss, Congress’s gain

The BRS government’s second term has been marred by widespread public discontent over issues such as a lack of government jobs, TSPSC exam paper leaks, welfare programmes like 2BHK housing scheme not reaching the needy, and the suspension of new ration card issuance for over two years.

Despite the electorate’s desire for change, the Congress, until recently, failed to emerge as a credible alternative. The party’s image was tarnished by the defections of flocks of its own MLAs to the BRS. The Congress, which was the second-largest party in 2018, was reduced to just seven MLAs due to these defections, with one MLA, Sabitha Indra Reddy, even being included in KCR’s cabinet. The party lost two more seats in by-polls, further bringing down its tally of MLAs to just five.

Between 2020 and 2022, the BJP made significant gains in the state under the leadership of Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay, winning two by-polls and making a strong showing in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls.

However, the BJP’s graph began to fall with the Munugode by-poll setback in November last year. Internal squabbles also plagued the state unit, culminating in the abrupt replacement of the aggressive Bandi Sanjay with the soft-spoken Union minister Kishan Reddy in July, just a few months before the elections.

Congress’s turnaround

The resurgence of the Congress began in Telangana around the time of the Munugode by-poll, even though it lost this seat to the BRS.

That was the time Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra passed through Telangana, drawing huge crowds and bolstering the morale of cadres. Rahul, notably, declined to deviate from the Yatra to campaign in Munugode, emphasising the Yatra’s broader national focus.

And then the Congress’s astounding assembly poll results in Karnataka in May seemed to wake up Telangana party leaders from their slumber.

Seeking to repeat the success of the Karnataka Congress’s five guarantees, the Telangana unit released its own list of six promises to give Rs 15,000 annually to both land-owning and tenant farmers and Rs 12,000 to farm labourers, Cheyutha pensions for the elderly at Rs 4,000 per month, subsidised gas cylinders at Rs 500, financial assistance of Rs 2,500 per month for women, and free travel for women in RTC buses, among others.

For job aspirants, the Congress promised to release an annual job calendar and fill two lakh government sector vacancies within a specified timeframe. A few days before polls, Rahul Gandhi met with job aspirants in Hyderabad’s Ashok Nagar to understand their concerns.


Also Read: ‘Buffalo sister’ Shireesha behind the herd in Telangana’s Kollapur, Congress’s Jupally Rao wins


‘Maarpu kaavali, Congress raavali’

Under the guidance of election strategist Sunil Kanugolu, the Congress ran a solid, public campaign— “Maarpu kaavali, Congress raavali” (for change in people’s lives, Congress should come to power)— that seemed to have resonated with the masses. Their social media slogans, such as “ByeByeKCR” also gained traction among the youth.

At the same time, the BJP’s image as a credible alternative to the BRS took a hit because it failed to deliver on its promises to ensure the arrest of KCR’s daughter, K Kavitha, by central agencies in the so-called Delhi excise policy scam. The Congress capitalised on this. In many rallies, Rahul Gandhi declared that BRS stands for “BJP Rishtedaar Samithi” (BRS and BJP are family).

Supporting Revanth, several top Congress leaders like Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi, and AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge camped in the state, canvassing for several days.

The Congress’s alliance with the Communist Party of India (CPI) also benefited it in the Khammam and Nalgonda regions, former Left strongholds, where it won a majority of the seats. Its ally CPI grabbed Kothagudem. The party also collaborated with several civil society organisations in its fight, said sources.

“Sensing the BJP’s decline, even its supporters who wanted to dislodge KCR voted for Congress in many places. Also, it is an open secret that the TDP sat out the polls to benefit the Congress,” a BRS leader said.

In a bid to quell dissent and potential defections, KCR fielded 104 sitting MLAs, a decision that may have backfired. “I think local disapproval of our sitting MLAs in 20-25 constituencies has also helped turn the tide in the Congress’s favour,” said the BRS leader.

Several techies, Kamma voters and Andhra settlers in Telangana, ThePrint spoke to, said they were inclined towards the Congress this time.

In the sea of Congress flags at Revanth’s residence Sunday, several yellow TDP flags stood out. Congress leaders like CLP leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka had even worn TDP stoles while campaigning.

“After two terms, some anti-incumbency is bound to develop,” said Dasoju Sravan, a senior BRS leader. “End of the day, in a democracy if people want change, governments will fall.”

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Source: The Print

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