These days, visitors to Gandhi Bhavan, the Congress headquarters in Hyderabad, are greeted by burly bouncers, both at the gate and inside the office. While officials say that they have been hired for additional security in view of the elections, the inside story is that both Telangana PCC chief Ponnala Lakshmaiah and APCC chief Raghuveera Reddy are expecting trouble as soon as the party leadership announces its candidates for the two states.
“There are so many aspirants for tickets that trouble is expected. Many MLAs, MPs, MLCs and district leaders are seeking tickets not only for themselves but also for their relatives and friends. Many of them are going to be disappointed and trouble in the form of outbursts, protests and attacks on PCC chiefs and other leaders is expected. The bouncers are there not only to protect the leaders but also to keep out potential trouble-makers,’’ said a party official.
Clad in jeans and black T-shirts, the bouncers have taken up strategic positions outside the offices of Lakshmaiah, Reddy and other office-bearers. Four men posted at the gate verify the identities of all visitors, stopping anyone who has no official work.
With party leaders of Telangana and Seemandhra sharing the same office, and leaders of rival groups of both regions making the rounds to inquire about nominations, tension often runs high at Gandhi Bhavan. The party roped in private security after a couple of incidents. In one case, supporters of two rival leaders came to blows.
In fact, sources said, the party is delaying the announcement of its candidates for fear of backlash. Supporters of many MLAs and local leaders are already staging demonstrations to demand tickets for them. And whenever Lakshmaiah is in office, groups of people visit him, demanding tickets for family members of those who died during the Telangana agitation.