As the Congress high command deals with the losses the party suffered in the Hindi heartland, it will also decide who Telangana’s next Chief Minister will be. Though state chief Revanth Reddy is the front-runner, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Bhatti Vikramarka has also made his ambitions for the top post clear. Sources said that one suggestion is that the party should take the Karnataka route. While one leader gets the chief ministership, the other will be appointed Deputy Chief Minister of the state. Siddaramaiah was appointed the Chief Minister of Karnataka in May 2023 while DK Shivakumar took up the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
With rumours of infighting between Bhatti and Revanth, the Congress may be forced to adopt a conciliatory route to avoid a fall-out. Both Revanth and Bhatti won from their respective home constituencies of Kodangal and Madhira.
Bhatti, who has been with the Congress since 1990, was elected MLA in 2009. Revanth defected to the Congress from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 2017 and isn’t viewed as a Congress loyalist. Congress sources told TNM that this is one reason for the internal power struggle.
There is also a divide between Revanth and senior leader and former chief of the Telangana Congress, Uttam Kumar Reddy. The Congress high command is likely to sideline the latter, who has an eye on the CM seat, and promote Revanth and Bhatti, a man from the Scheduled Caste (SC, Mala) community. Bhatti has won from Khammam’s Madhira constituency four times in a row, the most recent win being in the 2023 Assembly elections.
Revanth has largely been credited with reviving the Congress in Telangana, which had little to no momentum till two months ago. Since taking up the role of Telangana Congress chief two years ago, Revanth has been a major face in Telangana politics and garnered the attention of several from within the party. He gained political mileage when he set out on a padayatra as part of Congress party’s ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan’ campaign. However, the prominence accorded to him has also led to resentment in the party. While campaigning for the Congress, the now Nalgonda MLA Komatireddy Venkat Reddy remarked, “Like Dr BR Ambedkar had envisioned, a Dalit should become the Chief Minister if Congress comes to power,” clearly referring to Bhatti Vikramarka, who has the support of several senior leaders in Congress. Like Revanth, Bhatti also carried out a padayatra covering 1,400 km across 36 constituencies.
The Congress had taunted Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) chief K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) through their campaign saying that he was reluctant to have a Dalit as Chief Minister and also asked why Deputy Chief Ministers were removed since the state formation.
Congress has consistently criticised KCR, who during the Telangana statehood agitation had promised that a Dalit would be made the CM if the state was formed. After state formation in 2014, KCR became the Chief Minister for two terms. In fact, two days before the state elections this year, All India Congress Committee (AICC) chief Mallikarjun Kharge pulled up KCR for failing to keep the promise. He also referred to him as a ‘dora’ (feudal lord). Bhatti’s supporters assert that the Congress choosing a Dalit leader to lead the state will set an example.