Telangana Comeback: How Did Congress Do It & What Lies Ahead for the Party?

Let's take a look at how the party pulled off the win – and what lies ahead for it.

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After its thumping victory in Telangana, the Congress party in the state is in the process of deciding who the next chief minister would be. The frontrunner for the CM post is Revanth Reddy, who is largely being credited for Congress' revival in the state.

The Congress Legislative Party held a meeting with all the winning MLAs on Monday, 4 December, during which it was proposed that AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge would decide the next CM. But TPCC spokesperson Addanki Dayakar told the media that Revanth is the preferred candidate.

As the Congress gears up to form the government in Telangana after a decade of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) rule, let's take a look at how the party pulled off the win – and what lies ahead for it.


How Did the Party Do It?

The Congress party, until a few months ago, was battling failure after failure in Telangana. It was reduced to 18 seats in the 2018 Assembly elections; the very next year, it lost 12 MLAs to the BRS; it performed very poorly in the GHMC elections; and it lost Huzurnagar, Dubbaka, Nagarjuna Sagar, and Huzurabad bypolls.

So, how did it bounce back?

  • The party's win in Karnataka may not have had a direct impact on the way people voted in Telangana, but it definitely helped change perceptions. What that win did was make a dent in the narrative peddled by the BRS and BJP that the Congress has been obliterated in Telangana. 

  • The Congress' call for 'maarpu' or change resonated with people who were looking to move away from K Chandrasekhar Rao and the BRS. The BRS was battling anti-incumbency and anger against its MLAs – and the anti-BRS votes went to the Congress more so than the BJP. The party's narrative that the BRS and BJP were discretely working together may have struck a chord with anti-incumbency voters.

  • The Congress is also a party that has roots in Telangana, unlike the BJP. They still hold have an emotional connection with the Gandhi family – and this sentiment was prominently invoked by the party during its campaigns.

  • Another factor, perhaps, was Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra. While it is unclear how helpful the rally was for the party, it certainly was a morale boost to the cadre in Telangana. The yatra covered 19 constituencies and the party emerged victorious in nine of them. The ones they lost were in the Hyderabad and Medak regions, where the BRS and the AIMIM are strong.

  • The Congress rallied its forces primarily in rural Telangana and not the Hyderabad region. Its campaigns were more focused on north, central, and south Telangana – and that was where it received most dividends.

  • AICC chief Mallikharjun Kharge's leadership, too, may have helped the party, as he hails from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the state.

  • The party's six guarantees that concentrated on women, youth, elderly, minorities, and the marginalised unleashed a welfarist battle with the BRS. The BRS' manifesto broadly focused on improving on its existing schemes rather than bring in new ones.

  • As per experts, the party's candidate selection was based on the winnability factor. Though it faced some level of rebellion, the choice of candidates helped the party – unlike for the BRS, which replaced only a handful of its sitting MLAs.

What Lies Ahead for the Party?

Infighting is something that the Congress in Telangana has always struggled with. Revanth Reddy took over as the TPCC president at a time when the party was undergoing a leadership crisis.

However, Revanth's leadership was also not well-received by senior leaders, who thought his management style was "autocratic."

If Revanth becomes the CM of Telangana, will the band of senior leaders who rebelled against his leadership get along with him? On the other hand, if the chief minister's post is given to a senior leader like Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, who is a Congress loyalist through and through, would Revanth accept it?

Another challenge that the party may have to face is to implement its six poll promises. In Karnataka, the party has been facing ire for poor implementation of some of its promises that brought it back to power. If the same happens in Telangana, how will the party deal with that?

This is especially concerning because the BRS, which prided itself on being a 'welfarist' party, suffered a massive defeat after it was embroiled in controversies surrounding the implementation of schemes like Dalit Bandhu and 2BHK houses.

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