“My only agenda in life is to dethrone KCR [K Chandrashekar Rao] and make his family irrelevant in politics,” Revanth Reddy had vowed eight years ago. As promised, he has led the Congress in successfully toppling the mighty Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) president. He had already declared that he would likely be sworn in as the CM on December 9, Sonia Gandhi’s birthday.
Against all odds, in a party where infighting is public knowledge, how did this 54-year-old emerge as a giant killer? What seemed an impossible goal was achieved by Revanth Reddy, the president of the Telangana Congress, and that too within three years of taking over the reins of a party that was under threat of extinction. So who is this man who faces ridicule for his short stature? This might sound filmy, but Revanth is a man from the past who has come to haunt KCR.
After Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014, KCR formed the government in Telangana, and N Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) became the Chief Minister of the residual state of Andhra Pradesh. Inspired by his loyalty and oratory skills, Revanth was appointed as the working president of Telangana TDP. With Revanth at the helm, the TDP won 15 seats in Telangana.
With favourable opportunities in Andhra and Telangana, the TDP was looking at a bonanza of capturing power in both the states. But sensing the threat, KCR planned an elaborate scheme. In a covert operation in 2015, Revanth was caught bribing a nominated MLA, Elvis Stephenson, to vote in favour of the TDP MLC candidate. As the prime accused in the case, Revanth was arrested by the Anti Corruption Bureau and jailed in Cherlapally prison. The arrest happened around the time when his only daughter Nymisha was getting married. He could attend both the engagement and the wedding only for a few hours after seeking bail.
KCR’s masterplan to eliminate the party from Telangana worked. This time around, the TDP refrained from contesting as the party is in deep crisis without a working president in Telangana and facing the aftermath of Naidu’s arrest in Andhra Pradesh.
Who is Revanth?
Revanth Reddy comes from a non-political family engaged in agriculture. He pursued his Bachelors in Arts in AV College, Hyderabad where he was associated with the Akhila Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. After dabbling in real estate and other businesses, he began his political career under the very same KCR as a member of TRS (now BRS) around 2001-2002. However, after being sidelined by the party, he quit the TRS in 2006. He contested as an independent candidate in the Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency in Midjil Mandal, Mahabubnagar. Subsequently, in 2007, he won the MLC elections as an independent candidate in Mahabubnagar. Following this, he joined the Telugu Desam Party. He was first elected MLA from Kodangal constituency in 2009. He retained the seat in the next election. But in the face of the KCR wave in 2018, he faced a setback. He lost the seat to Patnam Narender Reddy with a margin of nearly 9,000 votes.
Revanth is married to Congress veteran leader Jaipal Reddy’s niece Geeta. And he has an ability to differentiate his political life and personal life. This social skill has earned him friends from the Reddy community irrespective of their political affiliation.
“Revanth does not waste time. He is a focussed man,” recalled Payyavula Keshav, his former colleague from the TDP. According to Keshav, Chandrababu Naidu was impressed with Revanth’s active participation to corner the YS Rajasekhar Reddy government. “Revanth did extensive research to probe the irregularities in the Jalayagnam scam. This earned him further acknowledgement from Naidu,” Keshav added.
Revanth was collateral damage in KCR’s big scheme of things. KCR eliminated the challenge of TDP in Telangana after poaching nearly 10 TDP MLAs and getting Revanth arrested – effectively destroying the party.
According to his former colleagues, Revanth exhibited extreme loyalty to Naidu, which was reciprocated by the latter. And when the state was bifurcated and Naidu became the CM of the neighbouring state, Revanth saw an opportunity to become the CM of Telangana. “Revanth was open about those aspirations. He told everyone about it. But he was not that serious. His determination to dethrone KCR and become the CM intensified only after his arrest. That is when he decided to take on KCR’s family,” another TDP leader said.
This emotion was reflected in the impromptu charged public speech that Revanth made in 2015 outside the Cherlapally prison following his release in the cash-for-vote case.
In subsequent years, while the TDP was facing an existential crisis in Telangana, the Congress too became a victim of KCR’s poaching strategy. Under former president Uttam Kumar Reddy, the Congress could not make an effective impact against KCR. The party’s attacks proved futile against a giant like KCR. In the meantime, realising the waning status of the TDP in Telangana, Revanth joined the Congress in 2017. And he carefully cultivated an image that only he was capable of countering KCR. With his strongly worded speeches – often using harsh language – he proved that if anyone could take on KCR, who is a great orator himself, it was him.
Within five years, he took over the reins of the party and asserted his position in the party with his cutthroat politics. The Bharat Jodo Yatra brought Revanth closer to Rahul Gandhi, who was impressed with his ability to mobilise huge crowds. As a shrewd politician, before the Congress could cut him to size, he created the perception that the party was synonymous with him. The Bharat Jodo Yatra prominently featured his photos and songs, making his dominance in the party clear. “During the Bharat Jodo Yatra when we were planning which leaders should be visiting their constituency, everyone asked for Revanth Reddy,” said a Karnataka Congress leader who was part of the Yatra organising committee.
In a way, either Revanth was destined to become the Chief Minister or it was KCR who elevated his stature by going after him. In an old interview, while lamenting about KCR jeopardising his political career and making it clear that he was waiting for an opportunity to get back at him, Revanth said, “KCR chose me. I did not choose him.”
In a recent interview when Andhra Jyothy newspaper editor Vemuri Radhakrishna asked Revanth if he would take revenge against KCR, he said, “I won’t.” But he did say that a probe would be initiated against the allegations of BRS’ financial irregularities in the Kaleshwaram project.
Only time will tell if Revanth will take a leaf out of KCR’s politics and set out to destroy the BRS after coming to power.