From Pushover to Position of Strength: Congress’s Gain Evident in Public Outcry Against BRS

Curiously, the Congress party seems to have gained by default. The negative vote against the BRS is projected to shift in its favour.

Hyderabad: The Congress in Telangana has come a long way from being in a weak position a decade ago to a position of strength, as it readies for the upcoming assembly elections on November 30.

The party hasn’t done anything noteworthy during this period. However, public anger against the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) has led to its emergence as a strong contestant.

In a nutshell, the Congress has gained by default as the negative vote against the BRS is projected to shift in its favour.

The Congress failed to take up even a single agitation on people’s issues, something it had done by being a partner in the protracted struggle against power tariff hike which in a way had contributed to its ascendence to power in the combined state of Andhra Pradesh in 2004. Barring stray protests to highlight unemployment and failures of the government, the Congress never really took on the ruling regime in Telangana.

So, what is it that puts the Congress on an even keel or even stronger than the BRS in the upcoming contest? It is all because of the failures of the BRS government that the Congress has gained.

In the run up to the elections, it is visible that people are turning against the BRS. But strangely, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was expected to be another alternative, failed to make headway, though it tried to whip up its strategy of religious polarisation.

What helped Congress in this scenario were the frequent attacks on the BRS launched by the former party’s state unit president, A. Revanth Reddy. His BJP counterpart, Bandi Sanjay Kumar, was also equally aggressive against the BRS and chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), until he was eased out of the post earlier this year to pave way for Union minister G. Kishan Reddy.

Also read: Telangana Polls: BRS Has Reason Not to Be Overconfident With Congress Poised to Challenge

Telangana was a hotbed of resentment among the youngsters over unemployment in the last few months, following the leakage of question papers in half-a-dozen recruitment exams conducted by the State Public Service Commission. The protests by youngsters were put down with an iron hand by the police.

This issue, coupled with the prevailing anti-incumbency sentiment, which was fuelled by the feeling that KCR’s family amassed wealth and that populist policies for various sections of society were mere eyewash to cover up the government’s failures.

The anti-incumbency sentiment is gaining further ground because of an emotive issue: the feeling that the real estate businesses and other enterprises owned by people of Andhra Pradesh origin are continuing. This, people feel, runs contrary to the main plank of the Telangana statehood movement, that the region was exploited by politicians and businessmen from Andhra.

In this context, the Bharat Jodo yatra, launched by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, was a shot in the arm for the party. The yatra and Reddy’s outbursts against KCR infused a refreshing confidence in the party cadre. The party has also promised to create two lakh jobs within a year of coming to power and a calendar to fill up rising governemnt vacancies on a monthly basis.

The Congress Working Committee meeting in Hyderabad and a massive public meeting addressed by Sonia Gandhi on the outskirts on September 16 and 17 gave further impetus to the Congress’s growing popularity.

The uptick in the fortunes of the party ahead of the electoral battle is reflected in the interest to join the party by a number of leaders from the BRS and the BJP.

After the past two elections, the Congress lost a big chunk of its MLAs to the BRS (then TRS). In 2014, 10 of its 21 MLAs defected while in 2018, 13 of 19 did. With several disgruntled leaders flocking to it before the election, Congress appears to be in an upbeat mood. This could be seen from the hectic activity at Gandhi Bhavan, the party headquarters, with the campus and corridors full of leaders and supporters wanting tickets to contest polls. Protests have also erupted due to denial of tickets, with the finalisation of candidates for more than half of the total seats still pending.