The outcome of the Warangal Lok Sabha byelection with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) registering a record 4.59 lakh votes margin win has left the Congress, which has been aspiring for a comeback in Telangana, gasping for life. The bypoll has exposed the lack of state level leadership in the Congress, which lost power in the last general elections despite claiming the moral high ground of granting Telangana state.
By bagging just 15%, 1.56 lakh votes, Congress candidate and former Union minister Sarve Satyanarayana lost his deposit, though he came second. TRS nominee and a political novice Pasunuru Dayakar (47), polled 6.15 lakh votes (around 60%). BJP-TDP candidate Devaiah got 1.29 lakh votes and Prof G. Vinod Kumar, who was supported by 10 Left parties, ended up with just 14,000 votes.
Ever since the bifurcation of combined Andhra Pradesh, the Congress, which ruled the state for a decade since 2004, was hopeful that it was at least a force to reckon with in Telangana as it fulfilled the local people’s aspiration for a separate state.
The party high command blamed the poor show to betrayal by TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who had promised to merge his party with Congress, if the separate state was granted.
Preparation for the by-election was monitored by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. AICC general secretaries Digvijaya Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad were entrusted with the responsibility of the election work — right from candidate selection to campaign coordination. Though Rahul was supposed to address a few meetings, he held back due to poor survey findings.
When this newspaper spoke to several Telangana Congress leaders, they openly blamed the state leaders and accepted defeat. “We failed to match the strength of TRS. Unless we come up with an alliance with TDP, which is unlikely in the given circumstances, we may not win the next election in 2019,” said Nalgonda MP Gutta Sukhender Reddy.
Former Congress minister Komatireddy Venkat Reddy openly blamed TPCC president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy for the defeat, saying that the TPCC failed to put up a credible fight in the bypoll. Venkat Reddy said Congress lost two LS bypolls — Medak and Warangal (SC) — since the last general elections and is no position to win any election in the near future.
Congress leader in the Telangana State Legislative Council, Mohammad Ali Shabbir was not awareabout Congress losing its deposit in Warangal. “This is beyond our imagination. We need analyse the defeat. We all are responsible for the failure,” he said. Even Uttam Kumar Reddy who spoke to this paper admitted the defeat and said: “We will introspect.”
Young leaders are of the view that the TPCC leadership cannot take on KCR and his team. “Under the present system of remote control from Delhi (AICC) and poorly divided local leadership, we cannot fight KCR,” said Upender Reddy, a Youth Congress leader.