While Gandhi and his speech left Congress leaders and cadre in Telangana enthused, it’s no secret that it’s an uphill task for the Congress to take on the ruling TRS. Besides, though Gandhi only mentioned the TRS, there’s the rising BJP to tackle too.
At present, the Congress only has six MLAs and three MPs. In the December 2018 elections, the party won 19 seats but 13 of its MLAs defected to the TRS. Since 2014, the first election after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress has lost much of its voter base.
Congress leaders, while sounding upbeat about the party’s prospects in the next elections, admit they have a lot of ground to cover.
“TRS is a strong rival and there is the BJP on the other side. We are working hard to bring those who share the Congress’s ideas and ideology back into the party fold,’’ a leader said, adding that Gandhi too said this in a meeting with Telangana Congress Pradesh Committee (TPCC) leaders.
However, with the TRS and BJP already off the blocks — they have been aggressively wooing voters with door-to-door campaigns — questions are being raised about whether the Congress can catch-up.
The biggest challenge for the TPCC is to address infighting.
Sources said that while Gandhi spoke to the leaders about setting aside their egos and turf wars in the interest of the party, it’s easier said than done.
TPCC chief A Revanth Reddy, despite being a popular leader and a fierce critic of CM K Chandrashekar Rao, is considered an ‘outsider’ since he was with the TDP as late as 2017. Senior Congress leader MP Komatireddy Venkat Reddy and others have openly said that they do not want him to tour in their constituencies. Even at the Warangal public meeting, the frostiness among some Congress leaders was obvious.
The TRS has already hit back at Gandhi for his speech at Warangal. Responding to the Congress’s ‘Warangal declaration’, Telangana minister K T Rama Rao said the party should first implement farm loan waivers and schemes like ‘Rythu Bandhu’ in states that it rules.
Rao also wondered in what capacity Gandhi had come to Telangana. “The mother (Sonia Gandhi) is the party chief, he is a dummy. The Congress is an outdated party. If the Congress is so pro-farmer, why did it lose in Punjab? There is nothing new in the declaration he made yesterday. Congress had promised Rs 2 lakh of loan waiver in 2018 also. They lost then and they will continue to lose,’’ he said.