Leaders are deserting Congress in Telangana: What this means for the party

Two leaders – Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy and Dasoju Sravan – quit the Congress within a week. Now it is speculated that Komatireddy Venkat Reddy will also follow in their footsteps.
Leaders are deserting Congress in Telangana: What this means for the party
Leaders are deserting Congress in Telangana: What this means for the party

With the exit of two senior leaders — Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy and Dasoju Sravan — from the Congress within a week, the grand old party’s Telangana unit is facing a major crisis, at least in the perception battle. Added to this are rife speculations that Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, Rajagopal Reddy’s brother and MP of Bhongir, too might join the BJP. Meanwhile, the crisis in the Congress party has given an edge to the state BJP, which has been trying to position itself as the only formidable party capable of bringing down the TRS and form its government in Telangana in the next general elections, which will be held in 2023.

Announcing his resignation on August 5, Friday, Sravan, who was the national spokesperson of the party, had suggested that the Congress under the leadership of Revanth Reddy was not in a position to take on the TRS in the state. Highly critical of the “feudal” style of functioning of the party leadership, Sravan had alleged that Revanth was more invested in weakening the leaders from his own party to establish his reign. He also stated that there was no coordination within the party and that the party leadership was unaware of the ground situation in the state.

While Sravan’s revelations exposed the severe internal crisis within the Congress, thus becoming another major setback to the party, the series of blows did not end there. On the same day, Congress leader and Bhongir MP Venkat Reddy also made a visit to Delhi and met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the same day, sparking speculations that the Bhongir MP will follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Though Rajagopal Reddy had been hinting about quitting the Congress for nearly three years, Venkat Reddy, a senior leader who was vying for the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president post and to become the Chief Minister face of the party, had been maintaining that he will continue with the Congress. However, the recent development of his brother resigning both as the MLA of Munugode and from the Congress party membership, seems to have put Venkat Reddy in an uncomfortable situation. 

Rajagopal Reddy’s decision has also paved the way for a bye-poll in the Munugode Assembly constituency, which comes under the Parliamentary constituency represented by Venkat Reddy. This would make Venkat Reddy go against his brother, at least in public. Besides, the strained relationship between Venkat Reddy and Revanth Reddy, the current TPCC president, is also well-known. When Revanth clinched the top post in the Congress party, Venkat Reddy had alleged that the former had paid crores of rupees to Manickam Tagore, All India Congress Committee member and in-charge of Telangana, for a favourable report on him. 

Venkat Reddy’s decision to skip the Congress public meeting held in Munugode, in connection with Rajagopal Reddy’s exit, had also drawn ire from the party. A number of Congress leaders lashed out at Venkat for not participating in the meeting, with some even making insulting remarks against him. Also, by inducting Venkat Reddy’s rival Cherukuri Sudhakar into the Congress on Friday, Revanth has given a clear signal to Venkat to leave the party. 

While Rajagopal Reddy will be joining the BJP on August 21, Sravan refused to divulge any details as to which party he will be joining. However, he has ruled out TRS from the equation. Sources in the BJP, meanwhile, have confirmed Sravan has been in touch with the party. However, as he was not promised any key post, he is weighing his options.

Analysing the current political developments in the state, political analyst Palwai Raghavender told TNM that Rajagopal Reddy and Venkat Reddy leaving the party would definitely spell trouble for the party. “The Reddy brothers leaving the Congress fold is definitely going to affect the prospects of the Congress party in Nalgonda, as both of them have a stronghold in the region. Nalgonda has been a Congress bastion for decades and both these leaders have on-ground strength, so these people leaving the party is surely not a good sign for the grand old party.” 

Raghavender, however, added that the development would also give Revanth an opportunity to field candidates of his choice and manoeuvre things his way. “He will not be constrained by the reputation and image of these old timers. He will have much more freedom. But the question is if he will find a leader capable of matching the strength of the Reddy brothers,” he said.

He added that the Congress leaders deserting the party and joining the BJP ahead of the election would improve the latter’s strength. “The BJP has been working in Telangana for decades, but has been unable to occupy political space. Strong Congress leaders like Rajagopal and Venkat Reddy joining them would greatly improve the party’s influence,” he said. The BJP, which is on a mission to capture Telangana, is reportedly in touch with 14 legislators in the state, 10 of whom are from the TRS and the rest from the Congress.

While the desertion of the leaders is a setback to the Congress, it will not be the end of the road for the party, said K Nageshwar, another political observer and journalist, concurring with Raghavender. “Desertions alone will not ensure BJP’s victory. In the recent West Bengal elections, nearly 30 legislators deserted the Trinamool Congress and joined the BJP, but yet Mamata Banerjee won with a thumping majority,” he pointed out.

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