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Telangana Assembly election 2018: Sonia Gandhi to hold rally on 23 Nov as 'grand alliance' looks to cash on statehood sentiment

Sonia Gandhi will visit Hyderabad on 23 November to campaign for the Congress ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in Telangana. Sonia is expected to land in the state at the Begumpet airport by a special aircraft at around 5 pm on Friday. The UPA chairperson will then visit the Medchal constituency meeting venue where she will address a public meeting.

Congress leaders in Telangana were keen that Sonia should campaign in Gajwel, which is TRS chief and caretaker chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao's home turf. However, the central leadership felt that she should campaign in areas where the party is strong and can further improve its chances with her rallies.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Congress president Sonia Gandhi with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

The Congress' decision to keep Sonia out of KCR's home turf could also be a sign of the party backing off and anticipating that KCR may attack it for taking credit for forming Telangana. While it was under Sonia'a leadership that the Congress Working Committee had agreed to the creation of a separate state of Telangana, KCR has been invoking Telangana pride in the course of the election campaign.

The Congress is currently in a 'grand' alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which is led by N Chandrababu Naidu. Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and Communist Party of India (CPI) are the other members of the alliance. Lately, Naidu has been at the forefront of creating a united anti-BJP front by meeting various Opposition leaders.

After Sonia, Rahul will also campaign in the state from 28 to 29 November and again on 3 December. However, Telangana Congress leaders want to make sure that Sonia addresses public meetings in both north and south Telangana. "We are expecting the political atmosphere to change in favour of the Congress once Sonia appeals to the people of Telangana to vote for the Congress. The people of Telangana are indebted to her for fulfilling their decades-long dream of a separate state," a senior Congress leader told The Times of India.

The Congress is claiming that the people of the state know that it was Sonia who fulfilled their decade-long dream of statehood for Telangana. The party feels that the rural voters, especially the women and youth, feel let down by the TRS government, and will thus identify themselves with its campaign.

Thus for the Congress, "vote for Sonia Gandhi" — who made the Telangana dream come true — is a major poll slogan. "We will urge people to vote for Sonia, who had put the party’s future at stake in Andhra Pradesh to keep her promise of a separate Telangana. She took a brave decision and did not succumb to the strong lobbying from Andhra leaders who are known to be aggressive," a senior party leader told The Hindu.

Rahul had earlier campaigned in Telangana on 20 October and the party chief has now proposed to hold two huge public meetings, one in undivided Warangal district and the other in Karimnagar.

However, it's not going to be smooth sailing for the Congress, given KCR's all-out-attack on the grand old party. Many saw the TRS chief's move to dissolve the Assembly as a bid to further cement his power position in the state by avoiding a clash with the general elections in 2019.

Also, the Congress has burned its hands in Andhra Pradesh by choosing to relatively sideline the sentiments of people affected by the bifurcation. It was not long ago that TDP MPs, while protesting against the Centre for ignoring the demands of the people and the government of Andhra Pradesh, had also blamed the Congress for contributing to the start of this issue. Therefore, the TDP’s stand on separate statehood for Telangana is another chink in the armour of this grand alliance or 'mahakutami.' In this context, it would be interesting to see if Sonia's presence during the election campaign would be able to turn the tide in the Congress' favour.


Updated Date: Nov 18, 2018 17:18 PM

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