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Friday, August 06, 2021

New Telangana PCC chief Revanth Reddy has to take on TRS and keep Congress flock together

At present, Congress has six MLAs in the 119-member Legislative Assembly that is dominated by 103 Telangana Rashtra Samithi members.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad |
Updated: June 28, 2021 1:14:10 pm
Revanth Reddy joined the Congress party in 2017 after leaving the Telugu Desam Party. (Photo: Twitter/@revanth_anumula)

Anumula Revanth Reddy, the 55-year-old MP from Malkajgiri and a two-time MLA, is the new chief of Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC). The firebrand leader replaced another parliamentarian, N Uttam Kumar Reddy, who held the post for the last seven years since the formation of a separate state. Revanth will assume the new role on July 7.

With a little over two years to go for the next state Assembly elections, Revanth is set to take charge of the state Congress unit which stands divided organisationally and decimated politically. Soon after its worst performance in the 2018 Assembly elections, as many as 12 of the 18 new MLAs moved to the ruling TRS. After governing the erstwhile unified Andhra Pradesh for ten years between 2004 and 2014, the Congress has lost its foothold in both the Telugu states and is constantly threatened by an emerging and strong cadre-based BJP which claims to be the principal opposition party in Telangana.

The first and foremost challenge for Revanth Reddy, who joined the Congress party only in 2017 after leaving the Telugu Desam Party, will be to gain the trust of party veterans and unify the house to inspire the cadre. While the party high command has now chosen him to strengthen its influence on the people of Telangana, it has caused some dismay in the minds of several other senior leaders and loyalists who fancied the top post.

Speaking to indianexpress.com on Sunday, Revanth admitted that expectations from him are huge as he takes up the big responsibility. He called his appointment as TPCC chief a bold decision taken by acting party president Sonia Gandhi and former president Rahul Gandhi. “I have to win. I will have to take my cadre as well as leaders along.

“Whoever is accepted to the cadre, competent, and energetic, to run the show will get the opportunity to function. I will consult with all senior leaders first. I have to carry with me my cadre as well as leaders. Expectations are very high. I have to win,” he replied when asked about likely changes in the organisation’s set-up.

Revanth Reddy is known for the aggression in his tone and approach that can match Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao as well as BJP’s state unit president Bandi Sanjay. A similar strategy of replacing a soft-spoken Dr. K Laxman with a hard-hitting Bandi Sanjay in 2020 worked for the BJP. The party could wrest the Dubbaka constituency, situated in the home district of KCR, from the TRS. The party could repeat the success to an extent in the GHMC polls that followed by upping its seats from 4 to 48 in the 150-member council. However, the BJP has since lost byelections to Nagarjuna Sagar assembly seat and two MLC seats.

Agreeing that Revanth is sharp like Sanjay, former MLC and political commentator Prof K Nageshwar pointed out that the former has a better understanding of issues. “Revanth combines the sharpness, rhetoric, wit, and in-depth research to substantiate his arguments, unlike Sanjay who just abuses his opponents. The form may look alike, the substance differs,” said Nageshwar, who shared the same bench with Revanth in the Legislative Council between 2007 and 2009.

Revanth, whose primary objective is to lead the party to power in 2023, will step into his new office on July 7. (Photo: Twitter/@revanth_anumula)

With Revanth at the helm, the Congress is likely to be more aggressive in its criticism of the ruling TRS party. Prof Nageshwar felt it will be the BJP and not TRS who will be first impacted. “BJP rose to sudden glory in the absence of a formidable leader in the Congress to occupy the anti-KCR political space. Revanth is a towering leader and star performer in that space. He will cloud the BJP,” he said. According to him, Revanth’s social media presence and influence over the youth is an added advantage that helps him match the likes of minister KTR.

Asked about his top priority, Revanth said the last seven years of TRS rule have given him enough fuel to fight for the public. “My core area is fighting for the public. There are so many issues and there is heartburn among the public. That itself is fuel for me to run the show,” he said, assuring widespread agitation against what is called the TRS government’s misrule and politics of arrogance.

At present, Congress has six MLAs in the 119-member Legislative Assembly that is dominated by 103 TRS members. The party has three MPs from the state in the Lok Sabha.

Asked to specify some of the top issues in his mind, he said he will first take up the issue of unemployment among youngsters. “There are 1.91 lakh vacancies in the government to be filled. All those who fought for Telangana statehood are still waiting for job notifications to be issued. Even after seven years, KCR has done nothing except for his family and friends. I am talking about 22 to 25 lakh unemployed people. To get them justice is my first task,” he said.

“The Health and Education sectors have gone to the dogs,” he said, adding that “KCR is least bothered” about all this. “The biggest challenges faced by the state are KCR and Coronavirus. We have to give relief to the public from these two.” Revanth said he will choose his game plan according to that of his opponent and will be aggressive where it is needed.

With former health minister and six-time MLA Eatala Rajender leaving the TRS and joining the BJP, the upcoming byelection to the Huzurabad constituency will be the first electoral test for Revanth Reddy’s leadership. There is also a counter view that the Huzurabad byelection is inconsequential to Congress as it is more of a fight between Eatala Rajender and KCR. Moreover, the assembly segment has been a stronghold of the TRS for the last two decades and before that of the TDP.

“Huzurabad byelection cannot be the basis for judging Revanth’s leadership. It is not even a Congress seat. It is premature to attribute the success or failure of a leader to one byelection,” said Nageshwar.

Revanth too said the upcoming byelection is “not a big deal”. He said, “Bye-elections never influence the public in Telangana. There will be ups and downs in bypolls but the BJP is nothing to be even discussed. It is the B-team of TRS.” He cited the TRS’ decision to not fight the bye-election in GHMC’s Lingojiguda recently after BJP leader N Ramachander Rao met with TRS party’s working president KT Rama Rao and sought his support. The bye-election was necessitated following the sudden death of BJP’s corporator-elect before the date of swearing-in. The Congress party won the seat.

According to Revanth, BJP’s claim of becoming the main opposition party in Telangana is just to create an aura among the masses. “BJP is about B-grade cinema dialogues. They are in power at the Center, why can’t they initiate investigation against the corruption in the TRS government?” he asked.

Revanth said the last seven years of TRS’s rule has given him enough fuel to fight for the public. (Photo: Twitter/@revanth_anumula)

Even as he felt no threat from the BJP, the biggest challenge for him could be from within. His elevation in the party has reportedly irked many. Some of the contenders for the top post had openly voiced their disapproval of him in the last several months. “There are different opinions and not differences. The strength of Congress is that everyone can express their views. We are a democratic platform,” he said.

Former minister and four-time MLA, Marri Shashidhar Reddy, who is part of a Congress loyalists forum that pressed for the appointment of a senior Congressman as new PCC chief, called Revanth’s leadership an “uncharted terrain”. Several Congress veterans, including Reddy, wanted Revanth who started as an ABVP activist before starting an active political career with TRS, soon moving to the TDP before joining Congress in 2017, to wait for a few years before taking up a leadership role.

About the divided house that Congress is often referred to as, Reddy said once a leader emerges with the support of the people, everything else will fall into place. “Even my father (two-time chief minister Marri Chenna Reddy) had opposition in the party when he took over as PCC chief. He could lead the party to victory twice. Once the leader establishes his credibility among the people, all leaders will fall in line,” he added. According to him, it is time for serious introspection into the party’s functioning in the last seven years and identify issues that Congress had raised and could not take to a logical conclusion. “Mere rhetoric, photo opportunities, sloganeering and large gatherings are not going to win back the confidence of the people,” he said.

“For the last two years, many of us have been pressing for a Congress loyalist to replace Uttam Kumar Reddy. Now that the high command has taken its decision, I hope I am proven wrong,” he said.

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