Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who made headlines last September by defending dynastic politics during an interaction in the United States, is all set to face major trouble, trying to accommodate the demands being made by his dynastic party leaders in Telangana. All of them want multiple tickets for their kith and kin to fight next year’s Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In at least 25 out of the state’s 119 Assembly constituencies, the grand old party is under immense pressure from dynastic claimants. Such is the situation that the Congress fears that rejecting their demands might incite senior state leaders to work against the party’s interests and hurt its electoral prospects. These leaders wield considerable influence in their respective areas. But if the party buckles under pressure, it will invite criticism for abandoning merit in favour of nepotism.
A senior Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee leader, who wished not to be quoted, told this newspaper that the AICC state in-charge secretary, R.K. Kuntia has been approached by these regional satraps, seeking tickets for their family members and relatives. “Kuntia will forward these requests to the party president,” said the TPCC leader.
As Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will have their Assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha elections in April 2019, the demands for more than one ticket from the same family will complicate matters. For example, a senior leader who won an Assembly seat in 2014 will ask for a Lok Sabha ticket for his family member so that they both win easily.
Congress in Telangana has a record of giving tickets to two persons from the same family. In 2014, seven senior leaders had secured tickets for themselves as well as for one family member each. Present TPCC president, N. Uttam Kumar Reddy and his wife Padmavati were elected from Huzurnagar and Kodad Assembly seats, for example.
Nalgonda MLA Komatireddy Venkat Reddy secured a ticket for his younger brother, Rajagopal Reddy, who was the sitting MP from Bhongir, but the latter lost to TRS candidate Dr B. Narsaiah. Former Union minister G. Venkataswamy’s both sons—G. Vivek (lost Peddapalli Lok Sabha seat) and Vinod (lost Peddapalli Assembly seat) were given tickets simultaneously.
R. Venkata Reddy and his younger brother Damodar Reddy got Assembly tickets from Madhira and Suryapet seats, but the latter lost. D.S. Reddya Naik and his daughter D.S. Kavitha contested for MLA seats from Warangal district, but both lost to their TRS rivals. Congress MLA Malli Bhattivikramarka and his cousin Mallu Ravi contested the last elections on party tickets. The allotment of tickets to these leaders and their family members last time encouraged others to ask for similar privilege.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, K. Jana Reddy is asking for a ticket for himself and his son Raghuveer Reddy from Nalgonda district. Former TPCC president Ponnala Lakshmaiah too wants a ticket for himself and his US returned daughter-in-law Vaishali.
Former minister Sabita Reddy wants a ticket for herself and her son, Karthik Reddy. Former Union minister Sarve Satyanarayana not only wants to contest the election himself, but also wants a ticket for his new son-in-law, Krishank. Former minister J. Geeta Reddy is keen on entering the Assembly along with her daughter Meghana Reddy.
R. Damodar Reddy this time wants to fight Assembly elections along with son Narotham Reddy; Congress MLA D.K. Aruna wants another ticket for her daughter Snigdha; former minister Marri Shashidhar Reddy is asking for tickets for himself and son Adiya Reddy. Former Secunderbad MP M. Anjan Kumar Yadav wants to fight the Lok Sabha election while trying for an Assembly election ticket for his son Anil Yadav. Banking on Rahul Gandhi’s stance on dynasty, many other leaders are likely to demand multiple tickets to accommodate their family members. There are 10 to 15 leaders who have been fighting elections on behalf of their late family heads and allotting tickets to them has become a trend by now, though their winning record is poor. For example, former Union minister P. Shiv Shankar’s son Dr Vinay was given the Congress ticket twice, but he lost on both occasions.
Many first generation Congress leaders are opposing the near monopoly of these mini-dynasties in the party. “It all depends on how Rahul Gandhi responds to these demands,” said Lingam Yadav, a former Congress candidate, who lost from the Bhongir Assembly seat in 1999.