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Inside Track by Coomi Kapoor: Revanth Reddy — a man to watch

In the last lap of the Telangana Assembly campaign, the Congress imported hundreds of its leaders and workers from neighbouring Karnataka to help. Karnataka’s Deputy CM D K Shivakumar was in charge of fund allocations. Pollster Sunil Kanugolu, the current Rahul Gandhi favourite, was the de facto head of the campaign.

Revanth Reddy, president of the Telangana Congress, was happy to defer to Kanugolu and Shivakumar. He did not want to ruffle any feathers as he aspires to be CM in case of a Congress victory and is conscious that many disgruntled party veterans brand him an outsider.

Reddy was once in the ABVP, and also in the TRS and the TDP. He switched to the Congress only in 2017. His rivals in the state Congress say his strength lies in keeping the people who matter — whether it is Rahul’s trusted lieutenants in Delhi or Shivakumar — on his side. The real winner of a Congress Telangana victory will be Kanugolu, who will emerge as the Congress’s key poll adviser in 2024.

Doing it my way

The Congress campaign in Telangana contrasted sharply with Madhya Pradesh, where the autocratic Kamal Nath gave short shrift to Kanugolu and his list of suggested candidates on the basis of perceived winability. Nath, 78, was given a totally free hand — whether it was his campaign’s Hindutva slant or granting an interview to anchor Navika Kumar, who is on the party’s boycott list.

Nath even seemed slightly irreverent towards the Gandhis. When a journalist remarked that Rahul and Priyanka were not very visible in offering a helping hand in MP, Nath quipped that the hand was not necessary and that their good wishes were enough. Nath should realise that his old rival Digvijay Singh is waiting in the wings. A defeat in MP would draw the curtains on the career of the longest serving Congress parliamentarian.

Bonus, not penalty

Festive offer

The Parliament’s Ethics Committee has probably done Mahua Moitra a favour due to its arbitrary conduct and by passing an order calling for her expulsion from the Lok Sabha. Until then, the feisty, very articulate TMC MP was cold-shouldered by Mamata Banerjee, both because of her habit of grabbing media limelight and overshadowing party seniors and for not seeking permission before speaking on issues.

Banerjee was annoyed over Moitra’s concerted attack on Gautam Adani since she wants to rectify the image of West Bengal being unfriendly to industrialists, after the scare created by Tatas’ exit from Singur. In fact, Banerjee has very cordial relations with the controversial Adani, who won the contract for the Haldia Dock.

The political buzz was that Moitra, having annoyed Banerjee, was hoping to get a parliamentary ticket from her former boss, Rahul Gandhi, for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. But once Moitra became an internationally acclaimed martyr for the anti-Modi lobby, Banerjee had no choice but to support her. The TMC boss cannot deny Moitra the Krishnanagar ticket, as the Left would accuse her of favouring industrialists.

Adani’s Congress boost

Rahul has accused Modi of crony capitalism, citing Gautam Adani as a prime example. Ironically, it was the Congress, when his father Rajiv Gandhi was PM, that facilitated Adani’s first big break in business. Adani’s elder brother bought a plastics unit in Ahmedabad and asked Gautam, formerly a diamond sorter, to run it. Rajiv’s trusted lieutenant Ahmed Patel had in 1985 led a delegation to then Congress CM Madhavsinh Solanki to petition for a change in the law permitting the import of primary polymers for small-scale industries. Shortly after the law changed, Adani opened an export company, which was his gateway to global trading through PVC imports.

By George, PS’s clout

Veteran journalist Mahendra Ved’s soon to be released book, @ 75 As I Saw It, has some untold nuggets, gleaned during his over 50-year career covering politics and PMs from up close. While many reasons have been cited for the bitter falling-out between Sonia Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao, the man she appointed as PM, Ved attributes the souring of the relationship entirely to Vincent George, then Sonia’s private secretary. George believed that Sonia had promised him the Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka, which went to Margaret Alva. Rao was away at the Earth Summit in Rio when this happened.

George, however, blamed Rao and “charged like a wounded bull”. No associate of Rao was granted an appointment to meet Sonia and Rao’s rivals were tutored to poison her ears. Incidentally, Ved cites the clout of Indira Gandhi’s PS, R K Dhawan, for somehow manoeuvring the switch of presidential candidate from  G S Dhillon to Giani Zail Singh in 1982.

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