Telangana Election 2023: BRS Rebels Give Congress A Pre-Poll Boost

Hyderabad: Upbeat after its victory in the Karnataka elections, the Congress has stepped up its efforts to strengthen its base in Telangana by luring dissident leaders from ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS). With 5-6 months to go for Assembly elections in Telangana, the party appears to have gained an upper hand over the BJP, whose aggressive pitch took a beating with the outcome of Karnataka polls.

Political observers say that with the recent joining of leaders from the BRS and other parties, the Congress started emerging as the main challenger for the BRS, which is likely to face anti-incumbency after two terms in power. During the last few days, the Congress succeeded in attracting even those rebel BRS leaders who earlier seemed to prefer the BJP.

According to political analysts, many leaders made up their minds after the Karnataka result and the party`s central and state leadership also made consistent efforts through regular talks. The Congress is likely to attract more leaders to its camp as the elections draw near. “Many dissident leaders of the BRS and even the BJP are likely to join Congress. Even those who had quit Congress a few years ago may come back,” said analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

He believes that despite the defeats in 2014 and 2018 polls, defections, poor performance in by-elections, and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and infighting, the Congress remains a strong force in the state.

Unlike the BJP whose presence is confined to a few districts, the Congress still has a strong presence across the state. “Some leaders might have left but the party`s cadres are still active on the ground,” said senior Congress leader and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir. The Congress appears to have achieved a big success with former Khammam MP Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy and former minister Jupally Krishna Rao reportedly making up their mind to join it.

Both the leaders were suspended by the BRS in April for anti-party activities and the BJP had been making serious efforts to convince them to join its camp. That the BJP failed in its efforts became clear when its MLA Eatala Rajender, who heads the party`s joining committee, threw up his hands. The former minister, who held a few rounds of talks with both leaders, revealed that the two leaders tried to persuade him to join hands with them in ousting the BRS from power.

Rajender, who had quit the BRS to join the BJP in 2021 after he was dropped from the state Cabinet by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, and some other leaders are reportedly unhappy with the style of functioning of state BJP President Bandi Sanjay Kumar. Reports of dissidence in BJP ranks also emerged after the party`s defeat in Karnataka polls and this is also believed to have hit the party`s efforts to woo BRS dissidents.

Srinivasa Reddy is to join the Congress party in the presence of Rahul Gandhi at a public meeting to be organised in Khammam later this month. The party is trying to mobilise three lakh people for the meeting. This will be a big boost for the Congress as Srinivasa Reddy is considered an influential leader in Khammam and adjoining districts.

Congress` Telangana President A. Revanth Reddy on June 17 held talks with Srinivasa Reddy and the two leaders reportedly spoke to Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi over phone. The Congress is said to have accepted Srinivasa Reddy`s demand to allocate tickets in eight out of 10 Assembly seats in the erstwhile Khammam district to his supporters.

Of these 10 seats, the Congress had won seven seats and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) two in the 2018 polls. The BRS could win just one seat. However, five of the Congress MLAs later defected to the BRS. Srinivas Reddy, who was elected to Lok Sabha from Khammam on a YSR Congress Party ticket in 2014, later switched loyalties to TRS (now BRS). He alleged that BRS leadership had made many promises but failed to fulfill them.

He was unhappy after KCR denied him a party ticket for both the 2018 Assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He raised a banner of revolt after he was not even invited to the January 18 public meeting organised by the BRS in Khammam. It was the first meeting of the BRS after it changed its name.

Another key joining in the party will be of former minister Jupally Krishna Rao. He felt sidelined in the BRS after MLA Harshvardhan Reddy, who had defeated him in Kollapur constituency in Mahabubnagar district in 2018, switched his loyalties from the Congress to the BRS after the Assembly polls. A few months ago, Krishna Rao had dared Harshvardhan Reddy for a debate on constituency development.

It will be a homecoming for Krishna Rao who had resigned from the Congress to join the TRS in 2011. He was elected from Kollapur in 2014 on a TRS ticket. His joining is expected to bolster the Congress presence in the Kollapur and Wanaparti segments.

A couple of other BRS leaders from Mahabubnagar are also likely to join the Congress. Kuchukulla Damodar Reddy, a member of Telangana Legislative Council, is likely to join the Congress by the end of the month.

Gurunath Reddy, a five-time MLA from Kodangal, is also expected to join Congress. Revanth Reddy, who hails from Mahabubnagar district, is looking to strengthen his position as TPCC chief by holding talks with leaders from other parties in the district to persuade them to join the Congress.

On June 15, the Congress received a shot in the arm with two senior leaders of the BRS joining it. Kuchadi Srihari Rao from Nirmal constituency, which is represented by forest minister A. Indrakaran Reddy, joined the Congress along with his followers. Another senior leader Nomula Prakash Rao, who was earlier with the TDP and later the BRS, also joined the Congress.

Revanth Reddy claims that these joinings show the growing strength of the Congress. He is confident that the Congress will come to power in Telangana. “The four crore people of Telangana have been bearing the brunt of BRS excesses and misrule and are waiting for an opportunity to unseat the KCR government,” he said. These are not mere joinings but a wave that will consume the anti-people BRS government, he claimed.