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Can Rahul revive Congress fortunes?

Can Rahul revive Congress fortunes?
Highlights

Congress chose to rally the people on an issue which is so sentimentally dear to the people of Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, there cannot be any other better issue than special status for Congress to pin hopes on for its revival. 

Congress chose to rally the people on an issue which is so sentimentally dear to the people of Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, there cannot be any other better issue than special status for Congress to pin hopes on for its revival.

But, it is too early and even erroneous to interpret that one such meeting can script Congress revival in a state where the polity is polarised between TDP and YSR Congress and wounds of bifurcation are yet to heal.

The party has to work hard from here to make its presence felt in Andhra Pradesh in 2019. But in Telangana, Congress is a strong political force and its leadership is seen as one which delivered on the long-pending demand of statehood for Telangana


The beleaguered Congress in Andhra Pradesh and the battered party in Telangana seem to have got a new lease of life with the successful visit of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. This is certainly not the heyday for the party that received a massive drubbing in the last Parliamentary polls.

Notwithstanding the clouds of suspicion over Rahul’s charisma, the crown prince of Congress could certainly pull the crowds for the party, thus enthusing the rank and file of the party.

This is evident from the reactions to Rahul’s salvos from political adversaries. The TRS president and the Chief Minister of Telangana chose to maintain a strategic silence on Rahul’s outbursts, while the TDP president and the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister reportedly cautioned his party machinery to be conscious of Congress attempts for revival in the state that taught it an unbelievable lesson in the last polls held against the backdrop of bifurcation of the state.

Chandrababu Naidu has also strongly reacted to Rahul‘s criticism, urging the people to bury the party. The conspicuous reaction of the two leaders is not without a political strategy. The TRS supremo reacted virulently to Amit Shah’s tour though the latter did not held any massive public meeting.

Even Shah’s criticism was confined to the central funds and their use or abuse in the state. The BJP is not a force to reckon with in Telangana. The party has no direction. The leadership lacks charisma and unity. The party suffers from a serious leadership deficit at all levels.

The BJP could not even project a strong face in all the 119 Assembly constituencies. Yet, the Chief Minister KCR chose to react in a manner that gave unprecedented publicity to BJP national president’s visit which otherwise would have remained a passing political event with little or no political consequence.

But, one should only be a political novice to ignore the deeply planned political strategy in KCR‘s unprecedented reaction. While stretching a hand of friendship to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, KCR vehemently opposed Amit Shah. Dosti with Modi and Kusti with Shah is not accidental. It is incidental to the ‘love and hate’ relationship the TRS enjoys with BJP.

Any surge in the BJP voting would cut into the anti-incumbency vote and disarm Congress, thus to the advantage of TRS. The consummate political person in KCR cannot be oblivious to this. KCR is known for his unparallel political acumen. The growth of BJP is strategically beneficial to TRS as the former cannot in anyway challenge KCR juggernaut.

On the other hand, Congress remains a strong political force in Telangana despite its defeat in the last elections. Unlike the Andhra Pradesh Congress which suffers from a congenital disorder in the wake of bifurcation which the Seemandhra electorate strongly resented, the Telangana Congress especially the Sonia family enjoys the image of a party and leadership who delivered on the long-pending demand of Telangana people for a separate state, the fact that even TRTS and KCR did not refuse to acknowledge.

The response to Rahul’s visit in Hyderabad is therefore, much more pronounced than that of the show at Guntur. Precisely, this might have prompted KCR to refrain from reacting to Rahul’s visit. Any reaction from KCR would have provided more ammunition to Congress campaign and brought more publicity to Rahul Gandhi’s tour.

Perhaps, there may be a similar strategy behind the reaction of TDP and its supremo Chandrababu Naidu to the tour of Rahul Gandhi. The Congress has been driven to the lowest ever performance in Andhra Pradesh post bifurcation.

There are no signs of party revival in the immediate future. The Congress camp is thoroughly disgruntled. Yet, Chandrababu Naidu reacted so seriously to Rahul’s visit. The TDP held protests at several places. In fact more people, perhaps, came to know about Rahul Gandhi’s visit due to the protests held by TDP. The TDP seems to have given more promotion to Congress meeting than its organisers.

Any increase in the vote share for Congress would also cut into the opposition vote as the TDP is primarily pitted against YSR Congress and there seems to be no likelihood of the party allying with Congress. Therefore, the TDP’s reaction to Congress would only help in turning away the political spotlight from YSR Congress leader.

The response to Congress meeting was not so significant warranting such a reaction from the TDP leadership. Yet, the Guntur meeting could help in enthusing the Congress cadres which suffer from organisational inertia due to political headwinds it faced after the bifurcation.

The Congress leadership employed effective tactics to make the Rahul’s meeting successful. The venue was in an area where there is a sizable minority population which is obviously against the NDA led by BJP in which TDP is a partner.

The party state leadership has also effected social engineering to ensure mobilisation. This is evident from the statements of Yadava community leaders deploring the TDP protests at Rahul‘s visit. An array of national leaders who incidentally or accidentally belong to Yadava community that forms a chunk of the population in the area where the meeting was held descended at the Congress meeting in Guntur.

It’s, however, wrong to assume the response to Congress meeting as solely due to caste and politico-religious arithmetic put in place by state Congress leadership to break the ice. But, these tactical moves certainly supplemented the efforts of Congress to ensure reasonable response to its leader’s visit.

The Congress chose to rally the people on an issue which is so sentimentally dear to the people of Andhra Pradesh. There is an all-round discontent over the manner in which the Modi government reneged on the promise of special status.

There is also a sense of disillusionment over the TDP failing to put up a strong resistance to the Centre’s blatant denial. The Congress certainly has a right to question the ruling NDA on this issue as its Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made this promise in Parliament.

Perhaps, there cannot be any other better issue than special status for the Congress to pin hopes on for its revival. This is true, notwithstanding the fact that the Congress had no explanation to offer for its failure to include the special status in the state reorganisation act itself. The Seemandhra people cannot forget the alacrity with which the then Congress-led UPA government effected bifurcation of the state.

But, despite the fact that Rahul Gandhi’s meeting was certainly a success given the Congress standards at this point of time, it is too early and even erroneous to interpret that one such meeting can script Congress revival in a state where the polity is polarised between TDP and YSR Congress and wounds of bifurcation are yet to heal.

The Congress cannot in anyway effect any change in the correlation of political forces in its favour with this meeting. But, the way the party rallied national political leaders has given added significance to the Congress gathering. The party has to work hard from here to make its presence felt in Andhra Pradesh in 2019.

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