Hyderabad, June 4: On the eve of the third anniversary of Telangana, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed a public meeting in Sangareddy and the huge public response was beyond the own expectations of the opposition party.
The first major show of strength by the Congress in three years has definitely send ripples in the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which was hoping that the meet will prove a ‘damp squib’ like the recent visit by BJP president Amit Shah.
Shah during his three-day visit to Nalgonda district did not address a public meeting but Congress mobilised a massive crowd at Sangareddy to send the message that it may be down but certainly not out.
Rahul Gandhi kicked a storm after his arrival at Begumpet airport in Hyderabad on June 1 as his rally triggered traffic chaos. He left for Sangareddy in a huge convoy of vehicles and it passed by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s camp office in Begumpet, to send a message to TRS.
This show of strength instilled confidence in the beleaguered cadre of Congress party. The party needed this much needed boost as its morale was down due defections by over a dozen legislators to TRS over last three years.
The choice of Ambedkar Stadium in Sangareddy for ‘Telangana Praja Garjana’ was also intended to strike a chord with people.
It was at this venue that Rahul’s grandmother Indira Gandhi had addressed a public meeting in 1979, before leading Congress to victory in 1980 general elections.
Hoping to recreate the magic of Indira Gandhi, Rahul exuded confidence that the party will come to power in Telangana in the next elections. Claiming that it was Congress which carved out Telangana state, he promised to take the state in the right direction, if voted to power.
Rahul’s attack on KCR for his ‘family rule’ and his failure to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of people of Telangana drew cheers from the crowd and pumped new energy in the party.
The Congress leader repeatedly asked people if they got Telangana which they had dreamt of during the movement for separate state. He came down heavily on KCR for carrying with him contractors and land mafia, instead of youth, students and women who shed their sweat and blood for the state.
“Was Telangana created for one family and these four persons,” he asked in an obvious reference to KCR, his minister son K. T. Rama Rao, daughter and MP K. Kavitha and nephew T. Harish Rao, who is also a minister in the state cabinet.
Rahul was bitter in his criticism of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and KCR for failing to fulfill their poll promises to create jobs. He asked them to stop hollow promises and set up factories in the country and the state to create employment.
He recalled that KCR had promised job to every household but could not provide one job even for one village.
The meeting was aimed at blowing the poll bugle, a few hours before the state celebrated its third anniversary.
The Congress cadre are upbeat over the success of the meeting and they believe that Rahul will recreate the magic of his grandmother.
It also set the tone for the kind of campaign Congress will run in the coming months. It will target KCR’s family rule, though TRS was quick to hit back at Rahul for ‘dynasty politics’ and terming his statement joke of the Millennium.
Congress leaders believe the discontent against TRS was brewing and they have good chance to take revenge on the party for betraying them following creation of Telangana state by not merging with the Congress.
The main opposition party also lost its 13 MLAs to TRS since 2014. The TRS wrest power in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and won all by-elections held over last three years.
Political observers feel that that the response to Rahul’s meeting will shake the confidence of TRS. The ruling party claims that a second term is a foregone conclusion but the response to Rahul’s meeting and the attempts by BJP to make forays show that TRS may face a challenge.
While KCR continues to be the most popular leader in the state, the recent incidents like handcuffing of chilli farmers, allegedly involved in vandalising Khammam market yard, protests against unemployment and the TRS government’s attempts for forcible acquisition of land for irrigation projects already created some amount of discontent among people.
It was no wonder that Rahul, in his speech, raised all these issues to cash in on the discontent.
The Congress vice president has asked state party leaders to reach every village and every household in the state to strengthen the party. It plans to organise more shows like Sangareddy meeting to mount pressure on TRS.
The big question, however, is whether Congress will be able to keep the tempo and convert this discontent into votes in 2019.