There is a perception that Rahul’s meetings were not enough to pull the crowds.
HYDERABAD: Congress, which desperately wants to come to power in Telangana, is looking at Sonia Gandhi and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu for its last mile coverage in the campaign that closes on 5 December. There is a perception within the party that the meetings held by Congress president Rahul Gandhi were not enough to pull the crowds.
Already, Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally at Medchel, 30 km from Hyderabad, on 23 November and CM Naidu addressed several meetings and road shows last week. Rahul Gandhi has become the only star campaigner for the party and so far, he has addressed a dozen meetings. There are several other senior Congress leaders visiting here, but most of them are confined to addressing press conferences.
The Congress and its allies, TDP, Telangana Jana Samithi and CPI, have been contesting all the 119 seats and there is a great demand from candidates for public meetings by the top leaders. This demand comes in the backdrop of TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) addressing score of meetings—so far he has spoken at 70 rallies and would cover another 30 in the next five days.
Moreover, Rahul Gandhi is not that popular among the people like his mother Sonia Gandhi who enjoys clout as being someone who had given the separate state of Telangana in 2014. KCR is able to attract women voters as his government has given pensions to around 25 lakh of them, either as old age or single women pensions at the rate of Rs 1,000 per month.
Congress leaders are of the view that to match the crowd pulling power of KCR, they, too, want a strong leader like Sonia Gandhi to campaign. Congress leaders were impressed with the rapport Sonia Gandhi struck with the masses on 23 November, when she used her “motherly” appeal, comparing Telangana with her “child”.
Congress leaders are pressing for at least one or two meetings by Sonia Gandhi next week, before the campaign ends on 5 December. However, sources said that the UPA chairperson is not in a position to meet their requests and tour Telangana in view of her delicate health conditions. “We have asked for her tour either on 4 or 5 December,” said Ponnam Prabhakar, Pradesh Congress Committee working president.
Similarly, Congress candidates are also seeking campaigning by Andhra Chief Minister Naidu in their seats too. Till now, Naidu has been addressing rallies and road shows in the constituencies from where his TDP candidates are in the fray. TDP senior leaders have confirmed that Naidu has received requests from many Congress candidates for canvassing, but said it is doubtful if he can manage to do that.
Congress leaders are worried over reports that at several places their official candidates were facing stiff fight from rebels, both from their party and those from allies. Congress leaders are also agitated over a recent survey by former Vijayawada MP Lagadapati Rajagopal that Independents will win from 8-10 seats, which might rock their boat.