Sonia Gandhi seeks to reclaim Congress' lost ground in Telangana with rally; Chandrababu Naidu conspicuous by his absence

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi stepped out of her electoral hibernation on Friday evening to reclaim the lost ground in Telangana.

Although the Congress had helped create the state in 2014, it is now out of power.

In Telangana, electoral equations have changed tremendously since the party was last in power. The state goes to the polls on 7 December to elect a new Assembly.

Addressing a huge rally at Medchal in Medchal-Malkajgiri district on Friday evening, Sonia reminded the people that it was the Congress party that had given birth to the state of Telangana. She appealed to the large gathering at the NJR KLR Ground at Medchal to vote for the Congress and the allies which are a part of the mahakutami.

“There is no doubt that without the Congress, the formation of Telangana state could not have been realised... It was only the Congress which prepared and got the Bill passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,” she had said.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi with other Congress leaders at an election rally in Medchal, Telangana. PTI

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi with other Congress leaders at an election rally in Medchal, Telangana. PTI

Even Telangana’s first (and present) chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, better known as KCR, has been on record giving credit to the Congress and Sonia Gandhi for the creation of Telangana. He had made this statement in the first Assembly session of the new state on 13 June, 2014. It is a different story, though, that the two turned bitter rivals soon thereafter.

Reiterating the fact at the rally, Sonia said that the state, unfortunately, had not been developed as expected – a reference to KCR, whose party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) holds 63 seats in a 119-seat Assembly.

If the Congress wants to increase its numbers in the Assembly, it needs to tread with caution.

Given the present electoral equations, in which the scales are heavily tipped in favour of the ruling TRS, the Congress cannot hope to achieve success on its own. It will have to align with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The two parties made an announcement about their faith in each other at the national level, when Naidu met Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi as part of his ongoing attempt to form a "mahagathbandhan" (grand alliance) against the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

In Telangana, the two parties are part of the "mahakutami", which also includes the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and Communist Party of India

Recently, after the TRS alleged that the Congress might compromise with the TDP and do injustice to the state, the Telangana Congress had made it clear that it would not compromise with Naidu. Making the party's stand clear, former Union minister S Jaipal Reddy said on Thursday that the party would not compromise with Naidu, especially on the river water issue.

Therefore, Naidu was conspicuous by his absence from the dais at Sonia’s rally. This may have been done to avoid any possible backlash. It could be an indication that the perceived gains for the mahakutami may have been over-hyped.

However, the Congress also appears to be making an attempt to keep Naidu in good humour, as it has been seeking a mahagathbandhan with the TDP as one of its partners. During Friday's rally, the UPA chairperson said, "It was the UPA government that had decided to give Andhra Pradesh special category status after the bifurcation. The Congress is still committed to its promise.”

The significance of Sonia Gandhi’s rally

Sonia Gandhi addressing a political rally a fortnight before the Assembly elections is significant, as the UPA chairperson has stayed away from campaigning for the party till now in this election season. Before the rally on Friday, Sonia had not addressed even a single public gathering in any of the poll-bound states. The last rally that she addressed was in May this year in Karnataka — after a gap of almost two years. She had skipped campaigning in all state elections in 2017, after she was forced to call off a road show in Varanasi midway due to ill health on 2 August, 2016.

This is Sonia Gandhi’s first visit to Telangana after the state was formed on 2 June, 2014. She had last addressed a rally in the state in Karimnagar on 15 April 2014, during the last elections.

Sonia is widely acknowledged to have been instrumental in getting statehood for Telangana. This obviously gives the Congress good reason to be proactive in this election, and to remind the people of Telangana about Sonia’s initiative.

The fact that Sonia has entered the Congress' electoral campaign shows the party’s seriousness in reclaiming the state where it was last in power between 2004 and 2014.

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Updated Date: Nov 23, 2018 22:44:18 IST

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