Congress chief in Telangana and the party’s CM face in this assembly elections Revanth Reddy loves to narrate this tale. When he fought his first assembly elections from Kodangal in 2009, he didn’t know where the constituency was. He was in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) then. He says he got a call from the bosses at 2 in the night that the party was fielding him from Kodangal. The next day was the last day to file nominations. He called up one of his friends to find out how to go to Kodangal from Hyderabad.
“It was the first time I visited that assembly constituency. I got only 14 days time to campaign and I won with over 7,500 votes. It was against the Congress then, Kodangal was a stronghold of Congress, which it had won five times,” he says. He is again fighting from Kodangal this election, and another seat from Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar’s constituency, Kamareddy.
Revanth Reddy joined the Congress only in 2017 and has in quick time risen to be its state chief. Senior Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and Jairam Ramesh spoke to him before Rahul Gandhi met him. The first time Reddy said no to their offer. But they got back to him again in six months and this time he agreed.
Reddy had got his work cut out. In the last assembly elections in 2018, K Chandrashekar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi or BRS (then it was called Telangana Rashtra Samithi or TRS), Congress’ arch-rival, polled 17% more votes. In fact, it got nearly half the votes at 47% share and swept the elections with 88 out of 119 seats. Till about six months ago that seemed a daunting gap to fill. But observers say in the last two months the Congress has gained momentum. The party has matched, and in many cases bettered, KCR’s welfare schemes in its manifesto. Its candidate selection has been sagacious with election strategist Sunil Kanugolu on board, using various data points to finalise a candidate, they say.
But yet, it’s a huge gap, will Congress be able to surmount it? “When a party gets a momentum like this just before the elections, no gap matters,” says Reddy. According to him there is swelling anger against KCR among the people and they feel betrayed that he has not been able to uphold the Telangana pride, the reason people sacrificed their lives for a separate state.
“All the infrastructure development in Hyderabad, outer ring road, international airport, IT companies, pharma companies, metro rail, Godavari water, flyovers—all this happened in Hyderabad in the combined state. Then why did people fight for a separate Telangana state? Because they were given everything, but they were not given their haq (right),” he says.
But many of the schemes of BRS have certainly trickled down to the targeted people. When we travel to Munugode assembly constituency, the only one the BJP won in 2018, farming women there show gold-plated bangles they have bought from the Rs 2,000 pension they get every month. Development is visible in far-flung towns and villages. It’s no wonder that Telangana has the highest per capita income in the country, at over Rs 3 lakh. But Reddy says all money is concentrated among a few select people in Hyderabad. “When the division happened in 2014, the state debt, our liabilities was Rs 69,000 crore. Today it is Rs 6.5 lakh crores. We are not able to give salaries before the 20th of every month. There is a lag of almost 20-25 days. The entire employee's CIBIL score is in the doldrums, they are not getting any more loans. People have taken house loans, they have taken car loans, they have taken motorbike loans, and whatever they have got from the bank they issue a cheque based on their salary. Now they are not getting salaries till the month end, so every month their cheques are bouncing,” he says.
Reddy says nobody developed Hyderabad more than the Nizams. They built the state assembly building which was being used till last year, they built the Osmania University, the Osmania Hospital, the underground drainage system, the road network, and drinking water. And yet, their regime too ended. “From 1994 to 2004 it was TDP, from 2004 to 2014 it was Congress, from 2014 to 2024 it has been TRS/BRS. Now it is time for Congress to come back. KCR should take rest,” he says.