About to complete a month as the Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge has made his first major organisational decision by revamping the party’s unit in Andhra Pradesh, a state which was once the mainstay of the Congress but slipped out of its hands in 2014 with little hope of its revival at this stage.
Kharge has appointed Gidugu Rudraraju as the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president, who will replace Sake Sailajanath. It is a bit of a gamble. Belonging to the Brahmin community, Rudraraju will be heading the Congress in a state where politics is dominated by the Kamma, Reddy and Kapu communities.
Rudraraju, who was an All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in charge of Odisha, is a surprise pick as the new APCC chief. Considered close to Congress veteran K V P Ramachandra Rao, he is in an unenviable position. The party currently does not have big names or faces. With Andhra politics now revolving around the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and the main Opposition TDP, the grand old party seems to have few takers in the state.
Although eight years have elapsed, the Congress is still bearing the brunt of bifurcation of AP. And the Opposition space is clearly crowded in the state. While the TDP is struggling to revive itself, actor-turned-politician K Pawan Kalyan is able to create a buzz by taking on Chief Minister and YSRCP supremo Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Amid these political equations, the Congress has been staring at dismal prospects ahead. The party did not win a single Assembly or Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 and 2019 elections. Apart from the lack of any strong state leaders, a continued anti-Congress sentiment is perceived to prevail among the AP people who apparently blame the Congress for bifurcation of the state in 2014 when the party-led UPA was ruling the Centre.
A former aide of late Y S Rajashekara Reddy, Rudraraju hails from Amalapuram in Konaseema district. He started his political career in the Congress’s students wing NSUI and the Youth Congress, and had been close to Rajashekara Reddy. He was appointed as the AP Medical Infrastructure Development Board chairman in 2005 and served in the position for two years.
Rudraraju was a general secretary in the APCC in the undivided AP. He also served as a Member of Legislative Council (MLC) from 2007 to 2011.
Sailajanath’s exit, who was appointed as the APCC chief in 2020, was not surprising. Most of the Congress leaders in Andhra were said to be unhappy with his style of functioning. There were complaints about his alleged “attitudinal problems” and lack of fund-raising abilities.
Both Sailajanath and his predecessor N Raghuveera Reddy hail from the Rayalaseema region while Rudraraju is from Coastal AP.
Kharge also appointed four working presidents of the APCC – Mastan Vali, Janga Goutham, Padmasree Sunkara and P Rakesh Reddy – in light of the state’s caste and community equations. The AICC chief appointed former Union minister M M Pallam Raju as the AICC Programme Implementation Committee chairman and G V Harsha Kumar as the APCC’s Campaign Committee chairman. N Tulasi Reddy has been appointed as the new chairman of the APCC’s Media & Social Media Committee.
The party chief also set up an 18-member Political Affairs Committee for the state unit, whose members include AICC general secretary in-charge of AP Oommen Chandy, C D Meiyappan, Christopher Tilak, Gidugu Rudra Raju, Ramachandra Rao, Raghu Veera Reddy, Sake Sailajanath, Pallam Raju, Chinta Mohan, T Subbarami Reddy and J D Seelam.
An APCC Coordination Committee was also constituted whose members include Chandy, Meiyappan, Tilak, Rudraraju, Kiran Kumar Reddy, Ramachandra Rao, Veera Reddy, Sailajanath, Pallam Raju, Harsha Kumar, K Bapi Raju, Tulasi Reddy, K Raju, Sai Pratap, Vali, Sirivella Prasad and Usha Naidu.