The party is currently struggling to field candidates in the ongoing gram panchayat elections in the state.

 

Hyderabad: After a nose bleeding defeat in the Telangana Assembly elections in December last year, the Congress is in tatters and mired in internal squabbling. The party aspired to come to power in the state and bag a majority of the total 17 Lok Sabha seats in this summer’s general elections, but it is in a dispirited mood, with many of its senior leaders accusing the  the AICC of mishandling its alliances. Party president Rahul Gandhi is in an embarrassing situation as several senior leaders squarely blamed the defaet on his decision to go for an alliance with Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and float a grand alliance which was touted to be a model for the rest of the parliamentary elections across the country. Now that the grand alliance has failed to take off in Telangana, it is doubtful whether it will be continued elsewhere.

Congress won just 19 MLAs in Telangana as against its previous tally of 22 in 2014, though it has contested in alliance with TDP and two other parties—Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and CPI. This time, the Telangana Assembly elections were directly led from the front by Rahul Gandhi and his team from Delhi. The lucky wins in three other states have eclipsed the failure of Rahul Gandhi’s team in Telangana.

Going by the tally of Assembly elections, Congress is not in a position to win even one or two MPs from Telangana, leave alone its hopes of wresting at least half of the 17. The party is currently struggling to field candidates in the ongoing gram panchayat elections in the state. Though these elections are held on a non-political basis, the ruling TRS has taken the battle as prestigious and is keen on bagging most posts.

On 6 January, former Union minister and senior Dalit leader Sarve Satyanaraya launched a direct attack in a party meeting on AICC in-charge general secretary R.C. Khuntia and Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy for their “sabotage style of handling of the party affairs in the elections”.

Satyanarayana got suspended from the party for his “gross indiscipline” and “outrageous” comments against the party leaders. Instead of dousing the dissidence in the party, Satyanarayana, who lost from Secunderabad Cantonment (SC) Assembly seat, has become a centre point for other leaders who, too, were not happy with the leadership.

Former ministers Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who lost from Nalgonda seat, and D.K. Aruna, who lost from the Gadwal seat, too, came out against the AICC’s decision to go for an alliance with TDP and blamed AP Chief Minister Naidu’s campaigning for the defeat of Congress in Telangana. “Where is the need for giving eight seats to TJS which has no presence in the state?” asked Venkat Reddy at a party meeting this week.

Aruna, too, felt that the Congress high command’s choice of a grand alliance was wrong as the party had to give seats to smaller parties like TDP and CPI, while TDP’s Naidu had become a liability. Another senior leader and former TPCC president Ponnala Lakshmaiah, too, blamed the formation of the grand alliance for the defeat of Congress.

Though these leaders have  not spoken against Rahul Gandhi as yet, their criticism against the grand alliance is being seen as one. In fact, when a majority of seniors in the party had opposed any open alliance with TDP, it was Rahul Gandhi who had insisted on having an alliance with the AP Chief Minister, as it would be helpful for Congress at the national level.

Rahul Gandhi and his team were of the view that as Naidu had pulled out of the BJP-led NDA and was committed to floating an anti-Narendra Modi front at the national level, it would be beneficial to have a tie up with him and they thought that the Telangana Assembly elections could be the starting point for this alliance. Later, they roped in TJS and CPI to form an alliance so that TDP could join it. Sources close to Uttam Kumar Reddy told this newspaper that it was the idea of AICC that the combined strength of Congress and TDP would definitely defeat the ruling TRS. Instead, the party had fared badly despite support from three other allies, thanks to bad planning and poor poll management. The presence of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, too, failed to make any mark.

Now the party faces greater challenges from within as leaders like Satyanarayana are out to question the way AICC in-charges ran the show. In 2014, a similar situation prevailed as the leaders who lost had blamed the loss on then AICC in-charge general secretary, Digvijaya Singh. As for TPCC chief Uttam Kumar Reddy, he could not get his even wife Padmavati get re-elected as MLA from the Kodad seat.

The impending election of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader on 16 January is going to further expose the internal differences as there are many contenders. CLP leader in the previous House, K. Jana Reddy lost from Nagarjuanasagar to TRS candidate, N. Narasimhaiah. As the new CLP will also become the Leader of the Opposition with Cabinet rank, there is a keen fight for the post.

While Uttam Reddy himself is a contender to the post, as he is not sure of continuing as TPCC leader after the Lok Sabha elections, there are others like Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, D. Sridhar Babu, T. Jayaprakash Reddy, G. Venkataramana Reddy and Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy in the field. The ruling TRS leadership is keenly watching the internal bickering in the Congress to take advantage of the situation.

 

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