The Karnataka victory earlier this year has put wind in the sails of the Congress in Telangana, against the dominant ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) party. Last month, the Congress announced six poll guarantees at a public meeting attended by its central leadership — including party president Mallikarjun Kharge, and former chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Congress teams are spread out across the 119 Assembly constituencies in the state to campaign.
For the Congress plans to unseat Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR, the following leaders will be crucial:
Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, CLP leader
The 62-year-old leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Vikramarka is crucial for the party to get Scheduled Caste (SC) votes. From March to June, the three-time MLA from Madhira in Khammam district took out a “People’s March” — an extension of the Bharat Jodo Yatra — covering over 1,400 km and 36 Assembly constituencies.
“People are suffering under the family rule of KCR. He and BRS leaders have neglected the marginalised people of Telangana. The state is ready for change. After Karnataka, it is time for Telangana,” Vikramarka says.
Acknowledging the CLP leader’s importance to the Congress plans, former Telangana Congress chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy said the inputs he gave from the yatra were valuable. “His suggestions based on his interactions with the people have been included in the party’s manifesto.”
A member of the Pradesh Congress Committee executive committee from 1990 to 1992, Vikramarka became MLC in undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2007. Two years later, he won his first Assembly tenure from Madhira and served as the chief whip of the government till 2011. He was the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly till 2014, the year Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh.
A Revanth Reddy, state Congress president
Anumula Revanth Reddy, 53, was once a popular leader of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Kodangal in Vikarabad district, elected MLA from Kodangal in 2009 and 2014. In May 2015, the Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested him on the accusation of attempting to bribe nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson to vote in favour of a TDP candidate in the Legislative Council election.
After being granted bail, Reddy left the TDP and joined the Congress in 2017. While he lost from Kodangal in the December 2018 elections to the BRS, four months later, he was elected to Parliament from Malkajgiri. In June 2021, Reddy was appointed as the state Congress president, and has had a mixed record since.
Currently, the Congress under him is a divided house. Leaders such as Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy and Dr Dasoju Sravan have quit over differences with him and there has been criticism of his “autocratic” style of functioning. He has also been targeted for being an “outsider” in the party.
“Revanth Reddy promotes himself only and does not take other Congress leaders into confidence. His style of functioning is autocratic. So the Telangana PCC is divided into factions, pro and anti-Revanth Reddy,’’ a leader said.
Another Congress functionary said, “But he happens to be our best bet as all other leaders have failed to lead the party against the BRS. At least with Revanth we have a fighting chance. He is rejuvenating the party.”
While factions loyal to leaders such as Uttam Kumar Reddy and state Congress working president Anjan Kumar Yadav remain wary of him, sources said that after intervention by the Congress high command, Reddy has taken care to consult leaders especially before making announcements.
N Uttam Kumar Reddy, former state Congress chief
The ex-Telangana Congress chief and Nalgonda MP has a good grip over the seven Assembly segments that constitute the Nalgonda district — Nalgonda, Suryapet, Kodad, Devarakonda, Miryalaguda, Huzurnagar, and Nagarjuna Sagar. He is expected to rally the Congress in the district.
A former Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, Reddy is a five-time MLA from Kodad (1999 to 2009) and Huzurnagar (2009 to 2019). When N Kiran Kumar Reddy was made the CM of undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2010 following the resignation of K Rosaiah, Reddy was the Housing Minister. After he shifted to Huzurnagar in 2009, his wife Padmavathi contested from Kodad in 2014 and won. But she lost to the BRS in 2018.
The following year, Reddy, who served as the state Congress chief from February 2015 to June 2021, gave up his Huzurnagar seat after entering Parliament from Nalgonda. But the BRS won Huzurnagar in the ensuing bypoll.
“Uttam Kumar is a strong leader from Nalgonda region. Together with Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, they can swing support for the Congress,’’ said a party leader.
Last month, Uttam Kumar was named to the Congress’s Central Election Committee (CEC). While he may contest both the Assembly elections this year and Lok Sabha elections in 2024, he is seeking a ticket for his wife too.