Reshmi AR

The Congress is in a bind on the way forward in both the Telugu- speaking states. In Andhra Pradesh, it is totally devoid of leadership and is a rudderless ship. In Telangana, it is in a slightly better position, but is in no real state to challenge the overall dominance of the KCR-led TRS.

The Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) is seen as the architect of the state in popular imagination. No matter how hard the Congress tries to amplify the importance of Sonia Gandhi in the creation of Telangana, in the hearts and minds of the people of Telangana, it was and will be KCR who finally achieved statehood.

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Since 2014, the Congress has been trying to mount a challenge to TRS without success. For one thing, the TRS has been very deft in its political strategy combined with a good governance model for Telangana. The fact that the TRS inhertited the smaller state in a healthy financial condition lend it a big initial boost. In more recent months, farmer friendly schemes like Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima have strengthened the party's outreach.

The Congress on the other hand is riven by internecine warfare with every other leader trying to be a chief ministerial candidate. Obviously, it is difficult for the party leadership to fulfill the aspirations of a range of leaders from different communities and social groups. Among the leaders jostling for power at the top, are Jana Reddy, Uttam Kumar Reddy, Shabbir Ali, Jaipal Reddy, Komatireddy Venkatreddy, DK Aruna, Savitha Indrareddy, Geetha Reddy, Ponnala Lakashmaiah and the freshly minted Congress leader Revanth Reddy crossing over straight from the TD fold.

Every single leader has his own band of loyalists and followers and together they can bring more to the table than they currently appear to. All of them are driven by the fear of being upstaged by the other. Some of them lack a popular base and cannot bring in votes. Such leaders who have had a long innings but cannot turn their experience into votes include Jaipal Reddy and V Hanumantha Rao. The one thing going for the Congress though, it must be said is a strong youth Congress wing in many parts of Telangana. If it can harness the power of youth energy to reap electoral dividends, the Congress could fare better than it is likely to as the situation currently appears.

In contrast, the TRS leadership has a unified command structure and presents a more dynamic face. In addition to KCR, his nephew and irrigation minister T Harish Rao and IT minister KTR lend a political thrust to the party at the top level which is missing in the Congress.

As things stand, Telangana in the 2019 elections is a one-horse race. The Congress at this point looks like a poor second and the BJP a distant third.